Leap Motion Controller Ship Date Delayed Until July 22, Due To A Need For A Larger, Longer Beta Test

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Leap Motion has just announced that its 3D gesture controller hardware ship date will be delayed, from May 13 for pre-orders and May 19 for general retail availability to July 27. The delay was caused by a need for more testing from the Leap Motion beta testing community, and an expansion of that group with additional members, according to Leap Motion CEO Michael Buckwald, who held a press conference today to discuss the missed dates.

This is not good new for a company that has spent a lot of time promoting its product and securing high-level partnerships (with Asus, HP and Best Buy) up until now. The hype that Leap Motion has been able to build only means that users will be more disappointed by any delays in its launch window, and the effect on public perception is certainly one the hardware startup would like to have avoided. Still, some 12,000 developers have received units and already used them to do impressive things, so Leap Motion is hardly in danger of being branded ‘vaporware’ as of yet.

Leap Motion says it wants to make sure that the product they deliver is the best they can offer, and says that there is “nothing catastrophically wrong” with the hardware as of yet. The company believes that it could have shipped by the original date if it had really pushed things, but wanted to make sure that things were ready for prime time. The new July 22 ship date is firmly set, according to Buckwald, and this is “the first and only delay there will be.”

When asked if there was a specific cause, Buckwald said it’s more about beta testing everything in general, but that there will definitely be a focus on getting more input on how customers interact with the product. In general, it sounds like there’s some concern about making sure that user experience is pleasant among not only Leap Motion’s more technical users, but also the general public, too. Buckwald says it has addressed most of the technical issues around gesture tracking, and now the emphasis is squarely on usability testing, and those who are already seeded with early hardware will essentially act more as consumer testers.

“If you’d asked me a year ago what was the biggest challenge, I’d have said it would be the hardware side,” Buckwald said, but went on to explain that the software aspect is now what’s holding things up, and the part that needs more refinement. 600,000 units are in inventory in warehouses ready to ship, he said, but those won’t be going out until the software issues are ironed out. When asked about how that affects their funding situation, he explained that the $45 million it has raised so far was designed to help it field unexpected hiccups in the process, and it continues to help with that.

A small number of additional users will be invited to the beta test pool beginning in June, Buckwald explained, but Leap Motion will be reaching out to users specifically to choose those, based on their desire for a more varied beta pool. In other words, you probably can’t petition for early access. The full letter Leap Motion is sending out to pre-order customers follows:

Release Date Update

I wanted to reach out to update you on the status of our ship date. After a lot of consideration, we’ve decided to push back the date and will now be shipping units to pre-order customers on July 22nd.

This is not a decision we take lightly. There are hundreds of thousands of people in over 150 countries who have pre-ordered Leap devices, some as long as a year ago. These people are part of our community and there is nothing more important to us than getting them devices as quickly as possible.

We’ve made a lot of progress. When we first started taking orders back in May we were twelve (very tired) people in a basement. Now we are eighty (although still tired and possibly still in a basement). We’ve manufactured over six hundred thousand devices and delivered twelve thousand Leaps to amazing developers who are building applications that let people do things that just wouldn’t have been possible before. These developers have given us great feedback that we’ve used to make huge improvements to the stability and polish of the product. We’re really proud of Leap as both a company and a product.

The reality is we very likely could have hit the original ship date. But it wouldn’t have left time for comprehensive testing. This will come in the form of a beta test that will start in June. We will give the 12k developers who currently have Leap devices access to the feature complete product including OS interaction (today developers only have access to the SDK). We will also invite some people who are not developers to join the beta test.

Ultimately, the only way we felt 100% confident we could deliver a truly magical product that would do justice to this new form of interaction, was to push the date so we would have more time for a larger, more diverse beta test.

I really appreciate your patience. I know it’s been a long wait. Everyone that works at Leap is working tirelessly to make sure that wait is worth it. Thanks so much for your help and support.

David and I will be participating in an open video Q&A using Google Hangout tomorrow. We’ll send along more specific information on that shortly. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact our support team atsupport@leapmotion.com or my personal email (buckwald@leapmotion.com). As always, we will not charge pre-order customer’s credit cards until the devices have actually shipped.

Thanks again. Michael Buckwald