A Leap Without Looking

Last March, I posted a video showing the Leap Motion handsfree interface device.

I recently had the chance to try one out myself, and, pun intended, I “leaped” at it.

I had read some reviews first, but every reviewer seemed to have a unique setup, different from mine. Some were on Windows PCs; others were on Apple laptops. Some were sitting at bare desks; others had standup workstations with wall-mounted monitors. Nothing looked like my raised Mac Mini setup, as shown below:

My humble Mac Mini workstation.

My humble Mac Mini workstation.

Connecting the small Leap Motion unit was simple enough. Included in its box are two USB cords: one short (24″), one longer (60″). The bigger issue–indeed, the Achilles heel–was placement. The Leap Motion “wants” to sit front and center, in front of or just behind the keyboard with no obstructions above or in front of it.

As shown in my workstation layout, the keyboard sits on a raised platform, a small portion of which sits beneath a shelf dedicated to the monitor and CPU. This overlap, it turns out, would preclude full functionality. I should have taken it as a sign that no reviewers had their Leap Motions set up the way I was attempting.

Despite the impaired functionality, I attempted to carry on with the setup. Frankly, I really wanted to operate my computer like Tom Cruise in Minority Report:

Despite my best efforts coming up with custom gestures (e.g. three fingers down minimizes a window), the obstructed sensor meant I wasn’t going to be able to move my windows around at all, to say nothing of the fluid gestures that Tom Cruise made look so easy.

If anything, after several hours of attempting to get the device to do what I wanted, I was less like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, and more like Tom Cruise screaming for “TECH SUPPORT!!!” in Vanilla Sky:

So, defeated, I boxed the device back up and returned it where I bought it, Best Buy.

“What is this thing? People keep returning them,” the clerk said.

I suppose the future isn’t now, just yet.

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