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Non-Blender: Leap Controller


The Leap Controller is a touch-free 3D controller that will become available this winter. It's on pre-order now for $69.99. Leap currently supports Windows and OSX, but Linux is 'on the agenda'.

From the Leap website:

Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements.

This isn’t a game system that roughly maps your hand movements. The Leap technology is 200 times more accurate than anything else on the market — at any price point. Just about the size of a flash drive, the Leap can distinguish your individual fingers and track your movements down to a 1/100th of a millimeter.

This is like day one of the mouse. Except, no one needs an instruction manual for their hands.

What do you think? Can you see yourself working with a setup like this for a longer period of time? Or will your arms fall off?


About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. Nathan Williams on

    Wow - if it's anywhere near as good as they make it out to be it could be revolutionary.

    Interesting that they say their initial motivation was 3d modelling:
    "The original inspiration behind Leap came from our frustration with 3D modeling— something that took 10 seconds in real life would take 30 minutes with a computer.  Molding virtual clay with a computer should be as easy as molding clay in the real world. The mouse and keyboard were simply getting in the way."

    They're offering free ones to developers. Any blender developers out there fancy getting hold of one?
    "We’re distributing thousands of kits to qualified developers, because, well, we want to see what kinds of incredible things you can all do with our technology. So wow us. Actually, register to get the SDK and a free Leap device first, and then wow us."

    • Yep, I saw that and thought so, too!  Man, heck, as a game developer, I'm seriously considering applying for one! I think as many developers as possible should get ahead of the game by being an early adopter!

  2. The fact that the "3D hand scanner" shows the back of the hand... makes me worried. A lot of what it promises to be, might be, but some things are questionable. Until someone I can trust has used this system, it smells like vaporware.

    •  Basically my position as well. It honestly looks too good to be true. Sometimes technology takes bounds ahead sooner than anticipated, but not often.

      • Kinect can be used as (full?) 3D scanner, thus, unless it is a limitation in the API, (working unit of) this product should be able to construct 3D.

        I am not saying this product does not/will not exist, but this is the year of Facebook IPO when people were saying just before the IPO that FB price will double (Steve Wozniak even said he'd buy FB at any price!).

        I will go all "Wow!" when someone I can trust has seen and used this unit.

    •  I admit I am a little skeptical as well.
      But as you can pair two of these together I suppose they could well of had another one above the hands.
      Something I would definitely purchase if it worked with a sculpting program, but until then even if it works as expected I can't imagine waving my hands in the air for a couple of hours navigating the internet :P

      • They haven't discussed using a pair of these units. At the moment, I'd say, that part of the video is a bit fishy.

      •  I was skeptical as well, but I find the following video difficult to doubt.
        Even if C-Net were in on the scam, it would be impossible for him to learn to mimic all those on-screen movements. Around 50 seconds in, he actually looks away from the screen for a moment before removing his hands from the tracking volume, and when he does, the finger points (in a fluid sim at that moment) disappear at exactly the right time.

        I suspect that the reason you can see the back of the hand is that whatever the device is emitting (sound, infrared, etc) actually penetrates the flesh to some extent, and the sensor can reconstruct the entire volume. There definitely seem to be fewer of those flickering datapoints on the back of the hand, where the tissue is thicker, and when the hand is held vertically, the body of the hand almost completely disappears.

        •  I don't think it may be as esoteric as many are making it out to be. What if it produced a point cloud by the user first rotating his hands to generate a continuous "object" (without edges and faces) then scans the motions of the bottom of the hands to move those vertices like mocap. In that case it would act as a two part process, scanning, then mocap, applying the capture on the fly.

      •  As to comfort, the issue is the positioning of the Leap and the screen, not the Leap itself. If the screen were positioned below and at an angle, like a drafting table, there would be little difficulty. Tablet-PC style interaction would also work. Keep in mind, it can register tiny little movements, so even on a regular tabletop, you could put down a wrist rest, and do everything with little finger movements. And in a different position, it could track the movement of your hands while resting on the screen, or using tolls on the screen (I emailed the developers and they confirmed this).

  3. Christos Georgakas on

    So you get a portable projector,a raspberry Pi with linux and blender and then this, and you can fancy being tom cruise in minority report.Looks cool to my eyes :)

  4. Picturing myself moving around the 3D space in blender with this... I'm all in. XD Perhaps even sculpt a bit with it. Anyway. This seems like fantastic toy or a tool to make 3D modelling somewhat more intuitive. Not so much interest for the toy part really but if Blender is going to support this, I will buy one. :) I've never used a 3D mouse before, thought about buying one. But this seems somewhat more cooler way to manage the scene.

    So, please consider about adding support to this device in Blender. :D

  5. A feature that would allow this thing to control the Blender viewport would be amazing!

    Totally unnecessary but fun :)

    • I've seen this comment, and while I am still of course skeptical, their points aren't necessarily valid.  

      The thing about it being too much CPU/memory for the putatively sampled points is just stupid, of course any smart algorithm does not need to sample every possible point in space as if it were scanning a group of voxels waiting to be occupied.  That's a very naive way to 'debunk' this.  That's like debunking an analog joystick by saying it has too many possible positions to all be sampled at once over USB.  That may be true, but doesn't mean building an analog joystick is impossible. 
      The 'broken physics' thing is easily explained by a 2-part scanner, (top and bottom) although I am not sure whether that's how it works or not. 

      There is a good reply to that comment pointing out that the software may be doing some smart reconstruction of hands/chopsticks, etc. instead of actually sampling the tops of the objects. 

      All in all, having read several articles on this, I find it plausible, but since it look so amazing, I am still skeptical. 

      • Yes, there are well balanced debates about the plausibility of this device happening on many forums around the world, and though there are many flawed points on the 'hoax' side of the argument, as you rightly pointed out, it is not wise to ignore the strong points, and foolish to hand over your credit card details when there is so much controversy.

        I am not sure why you would ignore statements like:

        "Go watch the video from 0:34 on, from here you can see the “detected hand” point cloud. However the perspective on it, and the angle of it is from the point of view of the viewer not the actual device. With it frequently “detecting” the top of the hand and losing samples from the side of the hand actually facing the device."

        "The device is described as using USB… however there is not a single demo, or example of it with a cord anywhere. The device has no visible ports."

        "None of the people from this company have any identifiable history whatsoever. Neither does the company. In fact the domain name was registered only about a month ago. The company doesn’t exist. Also they have only bothered to make one blog post with no commenting allowed… Hmm."

        "Their SSL certificate is a generic GoDaddy one. just a few bucks, no authentication. They have no privacy policy, no contact us page. Their ‘preorder form’ is an automatically generated page from, and who knows how secure the data ACTUALLY is. Their partner is ‘zazuba technology’ which is a generic wordpress job using the DEFAULT TEMPLATE and some spammy RSS feed."

        I could think of many ways to fake the exact same effect.   People should wait until they see at least one unbiased review from a respected tech journalist who has had hands on experience with a demo device received in the mail and attached to their own computer.  I myself will wait for user reviews from people that have purchased and used them.

  6. Would be cool for modelling... But as a "puppeteering" device for animation, this could be an actual game changer!

  7. It's like being able to reach into the monitor.  0_o
    This is a fine step towards virtual reality, yet It would be tiring.
    ...more fitting for displaying/meetings; as opposed to full production. 

    As per modeling, I wonder how it would translate scale; like going from modeling a cheek, then to an eye-crease.
    Animation would be able to get some natural movement quickly; albeit feeling silly at the same time : )

    This would be a nice add-on, /alongside/ the mouse and keys.

  8. this is kind of going in an opposite direction of what i would like to, except maybe as a game controller, but not as a mouse replacement for creating content.  for that, and other things, what i would rather have, is a driver for flight sim rudder control pedals, that would let me mouse with my feet, and thus not have to take my hands away from the keyboard to do so.

    i'm an old man and i get back pain enough as it is.  waving my arms around in 3-space to cursor with; no thanks.


  9. Just read the hackit comment. To play devil's devil's advocate:
    Bandwidth: No idea, but the kinect seems to be able to do it
    Broken physics: The data from the occluded side of the hand could be interpolated. Keep in mind that they're dealing with objects with a known structure.
    USB: If it's wireless it might not need a cable. I have a USB mouse at home with no cable in sight.

    Most importantly: The kinect already does alot of this, it isn't crazy science fiction.

    •  Bandwidth: The Kinect has no where near the claimed resolution of the Leap Controller so the juxtaposition is not comparable.
      Broken physics: The Leap Controller seems to be able to better interpolate the geometry in blind spots, and be blind to objects it can see, unlike you would expect and unlike the Kinect.
      USB: Mice send very small amounts of data so they draw very little current.  The Kenect draws way too much power to be able to run on batteries, so it is incredible that a cheaper and more powerful device can.

      Most importantly: The Kinect can do none of the above, but a science fiction device could.

      A good devil's advocate would not merely set up a 'straw-man' by only tackling the easy points.

      It was claimed by the skeptics that:
      1. The company doesn’t exist.
      2. Their website is highly suspect and possibly insecure.
      3. Their partners, 'Zazuba Technology' come with the default WordPress template, in the same way that pictures of make believe families come with a new photo frame.
      4. No reviewed has ever had hands on experience with one plugged into their own equipment, alone.

      I myself have not checked out any of these points, but I would be a fool not to if I was planing on pre-purchasing one.

      • Nathan Williams on

        Wired have tested it out and seem convinced.
        I find it very hard to believe that they, and CNET and lots of others have all been fooled.

        Are the claims of accuracy a little exaggerated? Probably, just as specifications of pretty much every bit of technology I've ever bought have been exaggerated.

        In terms of your other points, I think they're misunderstanding that this device does. It's not necessarily scanning every point in the space with sub-mm accuracy. Its inferring the shape of the object with sub-mm accuracy. When I control an avatar with kinect you can see all sides, even though kinect only sees one side. 

        From the other videos is looks like it is wired to USB - no big deal.

        Re. Zazuba - that must have be the guy's previous startup which failed and the domain name is now occupied by a generic blog. Again, no big deal.

        So I'm pretty sure its not a scam. Will it live up to its claims? who knows.

        Here's hoping!

        • I have been building visual interfaces for interactive installations since the '90s, and I am an early adopter of related technologies including the Kinect, so my work would benefit greatly if something this small, this accurate, this fast and this cheap this was real.  I would make a lot more money.

          After seeing the demo at I think that there is enough evidence for me to conclude that it is not real for many reasons, which I could detail in another post if anyone were interested, (and I am of the impression that this is even more unlikely).

          Nevertheless, if I were dishonest, I could set up a similar 'working' version in my lab with hidden technology that would make it indistinguishable from every demo I have seen on this device thus far.  Until there is evidence of a respected tech journalist that has been sent a demo device and used it with there own computer in their own office, I will remain unconvinced.

          Nathan, the video at 00:13 is not an avatar, it is a point cloud, that could not have been formed by any "infra-red camera" at that angle and proximity.

          THE CHALLENGE: I will put my money where my mouth is, and donate $69.99 to the Blender Foundation if it turns out to be real, and challenge every other person that is pretty sure that it is not a scam to donate $69.00 of their money to BF when it hits the fan.  (Either way it is for a good cause).

          My last warning on the matter:
          It would be EXTREAMLY FOOLISH to pre-pay for a 'Leap Controller' without at least checking to see if what some skeptics are saying is true or not regarding the following two claims, ie

          1. The company doesn’t exist.
          2. Their website is highly suspect and possibly insecure.

          Let the least gullible person win!  ;^)

          • I don't care if it's real or not. But why don't you just sue them for fraud, since you care so much and got enough evidence?
            It would be the next logical step and betting money would become obsolete, because you could win the trial and gain money from it, since they are interfering with your business.

  10. Now, go combine this thing with a headtracker and some videoglasses (and maybe even some sensor gloves, dunno if that works :D) and THEN, we can go ahead an sculpt like with clay :)

  11. User103media on

    Playing baseball last night was hard because of a sore back so maybe the thought of raising my arms all day isn’t that appealing to me.

    Sure initially this looks cool and just because it’s a new way of working and therefore people will jump all over it but in practical terms I believe it would be very tiring to have to constantly hold up arms hands and move fingers etc. while working all day. Think of how little you have to move a mouse to have it move over the entire screen. Maybe 2-3 inches max. Not a big fan.

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