Developers have already created hacks that allow a user to control real aircraft simply by mimicking the roll, pitch, and yaw motions of flight with an outstretched hand. The apps mostly apply to small quadcopter drones, but engineers at NASA recently used the same technique to control Athlete, the agency's 2,000-pound flying planetary rover.
Courtesy Intuitive Surgical Inc.
With accuracy of up to .01 millimeters, a Leap Motion device could enable doctors to perform precise surgical procedures by manipulating robotic arms. It could also allow them to treat patients remotely—particularly useful for soldiers in combat zones or astronauts in space. The ability to manipulate robotic arms precisely and at a distance could transform other detailed or remote mechanical work—for example, repairing a fighter jet on the other side of the world.
David Holz's frustration with 3-D computer-aided design was the impetus behind Leap Motion. It makes sense, then, that one of the company's first partnerships is with the design-software company Autodesk. With a Leap plug-in, users will be able to "shape" a 3-D model just as they would a lump of clay.
With password-based computer security increasingly compromised, hardware makers are looking for new biometric security systems. Technologies such as retina scanning are prohibitively expensive, however. A company called Battelle has developed an app that can identify an individual based on the unique shape and movement of his hand. With the app and a Leap Motion–equipped machine, one can sign on by simply waving at the sensor.
With gestural control, students could interact directly with complex visualizations. They could model chemicals or DNA. They could explore space (the app Exoplanet already allows them to do so). Or they could easily manipulate data visualizations to test different scenarios. Holz makes the analogy that people develop an understanding of basic physics by interacting with the world. By allowing virtual exploration to take on experiential qualities, gestural control could make the most abstract concepts real and intuitive.