We are at the threshold of a technological revolution, where the line between the science-fiction of yesterday and the reality of today is redrawn with each innovative product brought to market. The Leap Motion is pressing hard to be at the epicenter of this shift.
Their first product, called ‘The Leap,’ has been the center of attention in tech-circles ever since its announcement in 2010. The Leap is a sensor device that allows users to use finger and hand movements to interact with computers. At only 20 centimeters long, sporting a minimal metallic trim and polished appearance, the Leap is a gorgeous piece of industrial design. It uses infrared cameras and sensors to track gestures in a hemispheric area to a radius of three feet around the device, and to generate accurate three dimensional models in real-time.
While Leap Motion is in negotiations with computer manufacturers like HP and ASUS to incorporate its gesture-sensing technology in next-generation portable computing devices, the product is now sold as a stand-alone device at $79.99
Soon after its SDK was opened to developers, the company announced the ‘Airspace’ — an online marketplace to sell and buy applications that use the Leap. Adoption was slow, but consistent. Soon, Airspace featured the likes of Google Earth, New York Times, and even popular games like ‘Cut the Rope’ and ‘Fruit Ninja’.
In November 2013, the LA times reported that the Airspace had reached the 150 app milestone. We got our hands on the device and put together a list of the five most interesting apps on the ‘Airspace’ marketplace.
‘Molecules’ allows users to render and manipulate images of molecules in three dimensions. If you’re a student, or simply love chemistry, this app is perfect for you. Users can go hands-on and explore the intriguing world of chemistry in an intuitive and engrossing manner. This app fills a niche demand, but does it well.
‘Molecules’ is free and open-source. Currently, the app is available only to OS X users, who can enjoy state-of-the-art graphics and indulge in the immersive experience even on a Retina display.
After playing with the app for a while, we discovered another delightful feature. Using a simple gesture, one can align the particles on screen to obtain a lateral translation of the molecule, something that is otherwise a time-consuming and arduous process.
The application currently supports rendering molecular structures in multiple formats, which can be downloaded from a number of sources, including the RCSB Protein Data Bank and NCBI’s PubChem. Having used most apps on the Airspace platform, we think this is one of the best-built and well-designed options around.
Another one from the ‘Free Apps’ category featured on this list, Freeform allows users to take their artistic flair to a virtual sculpting environment. Built upon the Leap Motion controllers sturdy and accurate natural gesture sensing technology, this app is a joy to use.
Users not only create virtual sculptures, but can also choose amongst different materials like glass, clay, and plastic, or place their sculptures atop a custom background.
But what’s best about this app is the amount of flexibility it gives users. Users can view and modify wireframes of their sculptures, and even import or export them in various formats. In terms of the actual sculpting, the app features several tools that are familiar to model artists.
Freeform takes virtual sculpting to a whole new level by allowing users to view their work from a 360 degree camera angle, and intuitively skew and rotate their virtual work piece.
All-in-all, Freeform is an amazing app to get your creative juices flowing, and if it’s free — why not?
Have you ever found yourself air-drumming your favorite beat with your headphones popped on? If you’ve answered ‘yes,’ then you should check out AirBeats.
AirBeats captures your air-drumming, and translates it into real music. Further, it gives users the ability to not only use their hands, but also drumsticks and pencils — virtually any object that resembles a stick. If acoustic beats are not your genre, you can choose amongst 11 other types including dub step, hip-hop, and Drum ‘n’ Bass.
AirBeats is a paid app, priced at $4.99 — which is rather pricey compared to most apps available on Airspace, but checking out their demo video might be enough to convince you to purchase the app. Though it requires a little getting used to, once you’re in the flow it quickly becomes addictive.
It is an app that could potentially change how indie musicians make music, and the company is looking to add to their virtual orchestra, releasing a sister app called ‘AirHarp’ that allows users to play a digital harp, this time for a lower price of just $0.99
Windows 8, featuring the radical metro user interface, would be a delight to use in combination with the Leap Motion. Much to our surprise though, the Leap doesn’t support interaction with the operating system out of the box.
Pointable solves this problem, by giving users the ability to control Windows using the Leap Motion controller. If you’re a Windows user, this app is worth every cent (of the $4.99 that it’s priced at) because it does the integration so well that it seems natural. It is well-designed and works harmoniously with the hardware of the Leap Motion.
Customized gestures and cursor control makes complex tasks like navigation and multitasking a breeze. To add more, Pointable supports gestures within popular apps like Windows Media Player, most major web browsers, Spotify, Adobe Acrobat and most of the Microsoft Office Suit apps. It even makes it possible to manually add gestures to apps that aren’t supported by default.
A pleasant touch to the user experience comes in form of the visual feedback that the user gets while using Pointable. Pointable can easily replace mice on Windows devices. Being easy to use, setup, and customize, Pointable is an ideal candidate for ‘Best Leap Motion app for Windows’
1. Google Earth
When Google announced support for the Leap Controller device in Google Earth, we instantly took it for a spin. The Leap Motion radically changes the way you interact with Googles virtual globe.
Navigating around the map comes with a bit of a learning curve, but instructions are covered well in the official video. The otherwise-seamless experience is hindered by lag if the user’s internet connection is acting up, but the app should work fine in most cases. The Google Earth and Leap Motion combo not only offers an intuitive way to surf satellite images from all over the world, but also allows the same experience on images sourced from NASA to allow users to take virtual 3D tours of Mars and landing sites on the moon, as well as underwater maps.
Google-powered state-of-the-art mapping and digital cartography service, is complemented perfectly by the engrossing and natural feel of the Leap Motion device, and is a good indicator of the device’s ability not just to create new experiences, but to alter, and arguably improve, on older ones.
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