Leap Motion Launches With Limited Appeal, But It Could Be A Ticking Time Bomb Of Innovation

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The much-anticipated Leap Motion Controller began shipping to pre-order customers today, as reviews of the input device hit the web. The startup behind the controller has done an impressive job raising interest in the novel gadget, and sold an incredible amount of pre-orders to early adopters. But reviews so far have been mostly lukewarm, citing experiences that don’t necessarily live up to the hype.

The Leap Motion controller went back to the drawing board and put off its wide launch to spend more time in a wider beta in order to get the consumer experience right. It sounds like they were focusing on the right area with that effort, as most reviews say the Leap Motion experience is a little underwhelming, or at least something that’s an admirable distraction but not useful for truly productive usage.

Leap Motion has done a good job of getting a decent selection and range of apps in the Airspace dedicated software store for its device at launch, so it has that going for it. But the problem here appears to be that all of the apps leave reviewers feeling more like they’ve just experienced a gimmick, than the next generation of computer interaction.

What Leap Motion can do now (scrolling and paging through apps and virtual environments, completing next and back functions) is a far cry from what it will likely eventually be able to do, however. The Leap Motion and devices like it are a long bet, and I think the companies behind them understand this; we’ll see a bit of what they’re capable of shown off in tech demos and current generation software, but what they’re offering is an entirely new paradigm for thinking about digital interaction. That means it’ll take time before developers wrap their head around what kind of software experience fits this mould.

Adapting Fruit Ninja or Google Earth to something like 3D gesture control is a simple enough process, one that’s opportunistic without being truly innovative. Some might say Leap Motion should’ve stayed in beta until it could begin to bring about the change needed to show its controller off to its full potential, but someone had to get the tech to market. It’ll grow accordingly, though I’m curious to see if consumer interest will be enough to sustain it through its awkward adolescence based on these initial, hopeful but ultimately reserved consumer-oriented reviews.