The New York Times Will Release A Gesture-Controlled News App For Leap Motion

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The New York Times says it plans to release a Top News app for Leap Motion, the soon-to-be-released controller that will allow users to interact with their computers through gestures — in fact, it will be the only branded news app for the platform’s launch.

In the case of The Times’ app, users should be able to browse articles by moving their hands left and right. Headlines, images, and summaries will be presented in a card format, and if you see something that interests you, you tap on the card to read the full article. You then scroll through the article by making a circular motion, and you shake your hand to return to the Top News menu. (I wasn’t able to try the app myself, but you can see it in action in the video below.)

For now, the app only includes top stories, and there’s no integration with the company’s subscription system. Paul Smurl, The Times’ general manager of core digital products, told me that if the app is popular, the team could go further, adding more content and a login system for Times subscribers.

The Top News app was developed by The New York Times Idea Lab, a division for experimentation and innovation within the company’s Advertising Group. Smurl said The Times likes to a presence on early, experimental platforms, such as Leap Motion and Google Glass. (Yep, The Times has also released a Google Glass app.)

The hope, Smurl said, is to reach “to appeal to those early adopter kind of tech-focused folks that are obviously very influential and can make or break a trend.” At the same time, he sees real commercial potential here, particularly thanks to Leap Motion’s partnership with Best Buy. He said The Times isn’t necessarily looking to make money from these efforts right away, but they do need to have “a clear line of sight” to moentization and a big audience, or “something that allows it to bubble to the top of our priority list.” In this case, Smurl said knowing that The Times would be the exclusive news app was also attractive.

Apparently Times team members met with Leap Motion while at South by Southwest, and they were impressed by what they saw. The Leap Motion controller, Smurl said, “is much more fine-tuned and sensitive to hand and finger motions than some of the competing technologies out there. … It has enough fine motor sensitivity that a reading experience is enabled and it’s pretty damn good.”

The app should be available in Leap Motion’s Airspace Store on July 22 — the day that the controller itself is expected to launch.