Barbara Krasnoff

CES 2013: Taking a Leap into motion control

January 09, 2013 7:50 PM EST

One of the companies that has been creating a great deal of buzz in and around CES - and around the Web in general - is a small firm called Leap Motion that has done something deceptively simple: Created a small $70 device that will enable consumers to add precise three-dimensional motion detection to their computers. Have you ever wanted to swipe at virtual objects the way Tom Cruise did in the film Minority Report? Here's your chance.

According to a company rep, the Leap Motion controller can track 1/100 millimeter of motion with no visible latency - in other words, there won't be any lag between the motion of your fingers and that of the image on your display. None that you can detect, anyway.

The technology is based around algorithms created by co-founder David Holz. Michael Zagorsek, Leap Motion's VP of Product Marketing, explained that the reason he feels the controller will work is not only because of the technology it represents, but because the way in which the company reached out to the development community, releasing the SDK and distributing about 12,000 free units to developers. The idea is that, when the controller goes on the market to consumers (hopefully, sometime in Q1 of 2013), buyers will have access to a large number of related apps.

It is a fascinating piece of tech, and one that could be incredibly interesting to play with. The actual unit is small - 3 x 1 x 0.5 in. and 1.0 oz. - and contains three tiny sensors. It plugs into the USB port of a Mac or Windows PC and creates a space of 8 cubic feet (in other words, 2 x 2 x 2 feet) in which the motions of your hands will control the image on your display.

And the experience of waving your fingers in the air and creating lines, colors and shapes is extraordinary. Zagorsek showed how you could shape a piece of virtual clay or move the pieces in a game. At one point, I pointed at the screen to ask something and ended up drawing a graceful red line through the screen.

The Leap Motion controller is now available for pre-sale on the company's website. I'm very much looking forward to putting it through its paces when it's ready to ship.