If you see someone in the next couple of months moving one or both hands in front of his or her laptop, that person is likely one of the first in a wave of people to embrace the future of computer interaction.
We started seeing technology going this direction with the release of Kinect, Microsoft’s motion-sensing device for use with the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows-based PCs. The device allowed users to interact with their video games without the use of a controller by using gestures or spoken commands. The device was so popular that it sold a record-breaking eight million units in the first 60 days after its release in November 2010, earning recognition in the Guinness World Records™ for being the “fastest-selling consumer electronics device.” As of February 2013, over 24 million Kinect devices have been sold.
The popularity of a device like Kinect is sure to have spurred companies like Leap Motion and Myo into the gesture-control game. The San Francisco-based company, Leap Motion, was founded in 2010, the same year as Kinect’s release, and has been operating under the radar until announcing its first product in May 2012. That product, an $80 gesture-control system, is set to hit Best Buy stores on May 19.
Michael Buckwald, Leap Motion’s CEO, recently told The Washington Post, “The greatest thing holding us back is not power of computers or size of devices but the way that people interact with them.”
Leap Motion’s 3-D gesture-control device will allow users the ability to “reach into” the computer and interact with it on a three-dimensional plane, as opposed to the up-down-left-right-diagonal capabilities of the current mouse and keyboard. The device will also give users the ability to “grab, touch and shape” objects in an instant.
Buckwald also told The Washington Post that “hundreds of thousands” of consumers in over 100 countries have already preordered the device. Preorders will ship on May 13, giving those consumers the ability to use the device before it hits Best Buy shelves. On that same day, Leap Motion is also launching “Airspace,” a new marketplace with free and paid apps available that have been designed to work with Leap Motion’s gesture-control device.
The MYO armband is another gesture-control device on the horizon. Developed by Thalmic Labs, the armband senses motion and electrical activity in your muscles, which then allows you to control your computer or device via a Bluetooth connection. The sensors in the armband reportedly can even detect individual finger movement. MYO is currently set up for preorders but is not expected to ship until close to the end of the year.
While the rising popularity of devices like Kinect and gesture-control systems may lead to decreasing numbers of people who use a mouse or other game controllers, it will not lead to their all-out extinction. There will still be people who prefer the “old school” handheld devices.
Either that or they don’t want to look like someone conducting an orchestra in the middle of a library or coffee shop.