Jul 01 2012

Another Leap Towards True VR

""){ ?> By Valkyrie Ice


It’s small, and according to its makers, it could be even smaller, and yet, it’s probably going to be one of the biggest “disruptive technologies” for the computer this year. It’s called the “Leap”, and it will change nearly everything about how you interact with your computer.

In a 2010 article for H+ I talked about the prototype for the Kinect, and how it was a step towards “Good Enough VR”. Then, I showed ways the Kinect has been used in a variety of fields. Despite this, the Kinect hasn’t really become an “every day” computer interface because it’s not terribly precise; it isn’t easy to connect to a computer instead of your Xbox, and has thus been relegated to the realm of “super geeks” for anything outside of the rather limited “intended use” for the average person.

The Leap will change that.

Why? Think about it for a second. Think about why you don’t currently have a touchscreen computer monitor. As nice as touch screen is on your smart phone or tablet is, don’t you hate wiping off all those fingerprints? As wonderful as the intuitive “multitouch” interface is, aren’t those screens just way too expensive to make in sizes closer to what your monitor likely is? Oh, and isn’t there that concern that the “Rare Earths” needed to make them are limited, and mainly supplied by China?

Now, think about the fact that the Leap will enable any computer to act as if it had a touchscreen.

Without, you know, actually needing a touchscreen.

Then think about it a little more. At millimeter accuracy, it can not only read your fingertips, but tell if you are using a pen. So not only can it be used like a touchscreen; it can also be used like a digitizing table. It could track your fingers on a table top to allow you to type without a keyboard, or move your cursor without a mouse. Unlike the makers of Leap, I won’t say it will eliminate these devices, but I will point out that you could cut the cords off of both of them and still retain all the functionality. And you wouldn’t even need to keep batteries in your wireless versions.

In other words, it will turn them into props. Don’t actually have a mouse? Pick up anything mouse sized and it becomes one. Want a “real gun” for your first person shooter? Pick up a Nerf gun and bang, you suddenly don’t need an expensive “Virtual gun” like those for the Move or Wii. Need to draw in an art program? Why bother buying an expensive Wacom tablet when a twig will serve just as well. I’m sure that they will try like hell to maintain a market share, but let’s face it, the days of Logitech, Wacom, and any other “computer interface device” manufacturers are numbered.

But that’s nowhere near the end of the uses that the Leap will enable — because the secret to the Leap is not the hardware. That little device is actually made from really cheap components. The real disruptive tech is the algorithms that power that hardware, because it can be incorporated into smaller devices, as well as use different kinds of sensors — and as we develop new sensors, it will enable us to use them as well. All of this means that the “touchscreen” industry just received it’s death notice as well. Give it a year, and we will likely see “touchscreen” devices that are cheaper, tougher, and don’t require us to actually touch the screen.

And beyond that, since the Leap “maps” space in a “field,” instead of a two dimensional plane like the Kinect, it will enable the first stages of the “self aware world” I’ve described in a previous Acceler8or piece  as being a necessary part of omnipresent VR. Imagine walking into your Walmart and using any of those “advertisement screens” to pull up a help screen that can tell you where the item you are looking for is. Imagine a store window display that you can use through the glass.

And that just barely begins to “touch” on the myriad uses for the Leap. So yeah, have fun thinking about how you could use one, because even if you don’t buy one the day it hits the shelves, you won’t be able to avoid one for long. And in a few years, you will probably wonder how we ever survived without it.

  • By maximo ramos, July 2, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

    Virtual Reality is for people who lack the ability to appreciate ordinary reality.

  • By Lawrence Wang, July 2, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

    Musical instruments are for people who lack the ability to appreciate the human voice.

  • By maximo ramos, July 2, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    Round 99 of inappropriate and ill thought out comparisons….

  • By Haiku Hammock Swings, July 2, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

    This is pretty darn cool if you ask me.

  • By Arthur Ludd, July 2, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

    True VR? True virtual reality? It would appear that Orwellian doublespeak has infiltrated techno-spiritual-hipster lingo. Virtual is real. Alienation is intimacy. Couple this with an idea of cameras and sensors acting as the basis of a self aware environment and we have hyperlinked hipsters hawking digital dystopia.

  • By Bitrat, July 3, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

    Oh man, i can’t wait! Never learned to type, and so many apps are hands on – hopefully it’ll be like a kb, touchscreen and mouse rolled into one…..way overdue….

  • By Leyvenn, July 5, 2012 @ 7:23 am

    @Maximo: Physical reality is a subset of virtual reality, but virtual reality is not a subset of physical reality. That means that virtual reality possesses all the possibilities encompassed in physical reality, and that physical reality doesn’t possess everything included in virtual reality. Everything that exists as ‘physical’ can be turned into ‘virtual’. One world is made of atoms, the other is made of bits. Since our bodies exist in the physical world, many people tend to assume that physical reality is the only and true reality. But let’s not ignore the fact that our mind is always within a virtual space, simulating in its own fashion just a tiny bit of the phenomena related to matter and energy that surrounds us. But in the end, irrespective of our own conceptions about which reality is the most real, the true significant roots of our cognition are emotions, feelings and thoughts. Our brain doesn’t care if the stimuli it receives comes from atoms, photons, waves or bits. It just receives and compute. And voilà, we feel and think.

  • By maximo ramos, July 5, 2012 @ 8:03 am

    “but virtual reality is not a subset of physical reality.”

    yeah… say that to my face when I kick out the plug on your server farm…..

  • By Leyvenn, July 6, 2012 @ 3:29 am

    Maximo, I made my comment based on what I understood about your comment on ‘appreciation of ordinary reality’. When I talk about subsets, I refer to the possibilities to experience feelings, emotions, and thoughts when being immersed either within physical or virtual realities, since it was what I think you were refering to in your initial comment. I refer to possibilities of perception, interaction and conceptual creation. Obviously I wasn’t talking about subsets in the sense of interdependence between the two worlds, because the virtual world depends on materials, energy and laws structured in the physical dimension (at least for now).

  • By maximo ramos, July 6, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    then you should strive to communicate more clearly, and not rely on ‘weasle words’

  • By Sergei, July 6, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    Maximo, that is impossible. Leyvenn ‘Derrida’ don’t know the Dawkins’s Law of the conservation of difficulty.

  • By Leyvenn, July 7, 2012 @ 5:55 am

    I don’t understand the need for unpolite attitudes. My mother language is not english, I know that my english is not perfect, and I want to consider the possibility that that fact may have been partly the cause of this misunderstanding. I don’t think I was using weasle words. At least it was far from being my intention. I didn’t feel the need to specify in my first sentence something like: “If you are talking about appreciation of the ordinary (physical) world, I think that regarding the possibilities of appreciation, I think physical reality is a subset of virtual reality, but virtual reality is not a subset of physical reality.”

    I didn’t find the need to make that high level of specification since you already mentioned the word ‘appreciation’ (which is related to the recognition of value) in your first comment, and that word entails the central meaning of your comment. I thought it was too obvious that I was talking about ‘appreciation’, since my comment was a direct response to the only comment you made at that point, thus I was talking about the greater possibilities in the appreciation of elements in the virtual world, since every possibility of appreciation in the physical world can exist in the virtual world. But not every possibility of appreciation in the virtual world can exist in the physical world. So from my first very sentence, I was refering to your statement regarding ‘appreciation of ordinary reality’ vs ‘appreciation of virtual reality’. When people talk, each sentence gets its meaning from the words that form it, and also from the context. I extended what I meant in the first sentence, by saying: “That means that virtual reality possesses all the possibilities encompassed in physical reality, and that physical reality doesn’t possess everything included in virtual reality” => Virtual reality possesses all the POSSIBILITIES encompassed in physical reality. Thus, physical possibilities are a subset of virtual possibilities. Therefore the appreciation of virtual reality should range from equal to greater, when compared to physical reality. Truly, my comment wasn’t accurate in each sentence. Human language is not accurate. Also, human language needs to rely on context to avoid excessive redundance, which would lead to a waste of time and it wouldn’t be very practical. A relative, imperfect accuracy should be expected from the emitter, and an relative, imperfect sense of ‘intuition/understanding of context’ should be expected from the receiver. That’s how human language works 99,9% of the time. Another vital element is mutual respect.

    I wanted to explain that virtual reality and its virtual elements shouldn’t be treated as if they are of less value than the physical reality and its physical elements. And I wanted to explain that since your first sentence made a devaluation of virtual reality. I won’t try to convince you to have a greater appreciation of virtual in comparison to physical. If you want to live your life in the physical world, go on, I want you to do that. But please, don’t underestimate or underrate the desire of others to live in a virtual world, because that’s what you implicitly did in your first comment.

    Still, as I said, I want to concede the possibility that I didn’t speak as accurate as I should in my first comment, be it for my language barrier or even for my own personal assumptions. I’m not really sure if it was my mistake or your lack of understanding of context.

    But in either case, no mockery is needed. In either case we need mutual patience and politeness. Maximo and Sergei, if you don’t understand what someone is saying or don’t agree with something, please ask or reply politely next time.

  • By maximo ramos, July 7, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    cool story, bro!

    (virtual reality is made by and craved by incomplete human beings who don’t know how to live a human life, who have no appreciation for anything but video games and other cheap techophile toys and infant pacifiers)

  • By Leyvenn, July 8, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Maximo, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It is clear that you don’t want to show a cooperative attitude. I’m going to ignore your comments unless you show some maturity and manners.

  • By maximo ramos, July 8, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

    damn right! I refuse to cooperate in mass dehumanization through technophilia. I will probably have to refuse with violent force before too long, a few years at the most….

    “The target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines,” Leto said. “Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed.” – F. Herbert

  • By Sergei, July 8, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    Maturity?ROLFMAO Leyvenn, do you still live with your parents?

  • By Valkyrie, July 10, 2012 @ 4:51 am


    I’ve come to the conclusion that “Max”, “Angela”, “Sergei” and several other trolls who constantly spout about orwellian language, butlerian jihads, etc, are just the same troll doing his best to try and appear as if he has a “weight of opinion” on his side. It’s rather pointless to attempt to engage him in reasoned debate, because his tactics are simply to dismiss anything you say, attempt to claim you have no credibility for x reason, or failing all else, deride anyone who has the audacity to disagree with him. As to why he’s on a vendetta against RU and I, I couldn’t say, other than he keeps getting his “fix” when people try to argue with him.

    It’s probably best to just let the sockpuppets talk to themselves.

  • By flared0ne, July 14, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    As soon as we start seeing mashups of the Leap device and some simple red LED projector (like for one of the “virtual keyboards” you see occasionally), you’re going to be seeing virtual control surfaces of ALL kinds, all over the place. No monitor necessary.

    Not just keyboards and mice, but piano keyboards, synthesizer boards and patch panels, mixer boards, anything with knobs, switches, sliders, buttons, levers, touch-pads, patch cords, “controls”. And they don’t have to involve a lot of tiring “hand-waving” either. Put a printed template down on a worksurface, use THAT as your input device.

    Given the 0.01 millimeter precision, and more than 150 frames a second, “Makes OUR reality machine-readable” makes a lot of sense as a sound-bite slogan…

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