Leap Motion Use
So, now that you have the Leap Motion connected, the software downloaded, and the basic apps, how does it work? There is a light on the front that lets you now which shows you that the unit has power and which side is front. On the top you'll notice three red lights. I won't pretend to know how it works but, in essence, it creates a large field above, to the sides, and behind it. This is the sensory field and where the Leap Motion will be able to sense your hands.
My understanding is that most of the magic of the Leap Motion isn't in the hardware, but in the software. This means that you may see major upgrades in performance requiring firmware updates rather than expensive hardware purchases. But the hardware is pretty impressive as well. When I received the Leap Motion, it informed me that I had it in a "high light" environment. I was only near a window so i was a bit surprised. Within a day or two, there was a software update and I noticed a marked improvement in control and sensitivity. I've also used the Leap Motion in my home theater with all the lights off and no light other than the screen of my laptop and it has had no problems "seeing" my hands.
While the exact way to interact with your computer can vary wildly by app, the basics are the same. There is a point where it starts to sense your hand/fingers. You can use multiple fingers or motions to interact with the Leap Motion. You can even use a pointer of some sort (like a pencil) which it "sees" just fine. Using the Leap Motion preferences, you can set a number of variables including Interaction Height, tracking settings (for precision or speed), and go through troubleshooting.
If you are the skeptical sort, you probably have a bunch of questions about how well it senses your fingers. I would guess that if you tried the Leap Motion, your "fears" would be at first confirmed but then later you'd realize that it was more a learning curve issue. Therein is the rub for the Leap Motion. While many of the motions are familiar, performing them in the air is completely new. With practice, you can become very accurate and proficient with it but it does take some commitment on your part.
That said, there are issues. One of the selling points of the Leap Motion is the large sensing area. While this gives you a lot of area (and is great when you are standing rather than sitting), it can present problems. At my aforementioned Starbucks trip, I was sitting on the end of a counter. Every time a person would walk by, the Leap Motion would sense them and my cursor would go careening across the screen. This never presented any sort of real "problem" as in them closing something or switching applications, but it showed a limitation of the technology. Since that trip, I've adjusted the Interaction Height a number of times (I normally use the Leap Motion when seated) so that has helped. But even at my desk, I'll occasionally lean forward and the Leap Motion will sense my head (or hat) and the cursor will move.
The real question becomes "is the Leap Motion a substitute for X" where X=trackpad/mouse/whatever. Frankly, no. If I had to use the Leap Motion exclusively, I could. It is certainly capable of doing anything you'd need with your computer. But the mundane tasks like closing windows or selecting text are much more tedious with the Leap Motion. But for automating tasks or as a unique way or interacting with your computer, it is certainly a rousing success.
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I also found the device gets quite warm, qualifying for ”hot“ at times. It's highly affected by ambient light, even that from your own monitor. They make positioning sound non-critical, but in actuality it's very critical, and doesn't work well at all unless placed correctly.
But I also discovered another problem. I pre-ordered mine months before it was available. I got it in late July, tried it, and decided I had no need to keep it. Returning it was simple, and can be done online. But then the problems began. Actually getting credit back too almost a month, numerous emails (in which Leap Motion insisted they'd refunded me already), calls to the bank, and back to emails. The refund finally came through, but it was anything but timely, and smooth.
This may someday be a great product, but if you're thinking ”iPad control without the touch", forget it. Not even close. The best demo was one where you could influence the direction of a school of fish. The worst was actually trying to use it as a substitute for a track pad or mouse. I would say, not recommended yet. I'll watch for reviews of V 2.0, if it ever gets that far.