Leap Motion’s Michael Buckwald Lays Out His Vision For Gesture-Based Computer Interaction

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While I was at South by Southwest Interactive, I had a chance to meet with the Leap Motion team and try out their upcoming gesture-based controller. We’ve been writing about the company for a while now, but this was a chance to see the technology in-person, and to use it with existing apps.

Thankfully, my own feeble attempts to play Cut The Rope using the Leap Motion Controller weren’t recorded on camera, but we did film a short demo by Vice President of Product Marketing Michael Zagorsek. He showed off a 3D visualizer that helps developers understand the controller’s capabilities, then played Fruit Ninja using a chopstick, and finally used the controller to sculpt a digital clay.

After the demo, I sat down with CEO Michael Buckwald to talk some more about his plans for the product. The company still intends to start shipping units to preorder customers on May 13 and selling them in stores on May 19.

I was impressed by what I saw, but I also asked Buckwald whether, in order to master the new controller, some users might have to un-learn certain behaviors acquired from keyboards, mice, and trackpads.

“Interaction with a computer should be as similar to interaction with the real-world as possible,” he said. Other input devices may have “confused or unlearned” people’s instincts, but he argued, “Usually it takes people only a few seconds to recalibrate, and ultimately that deep, hardwired, instinctual ability to reach out and just grab an object in 3D space — because the world is 3D — that wins out.”

Eventually, Buckwald said he wants to see Leap Motion technology embedded into a wide range of devices, including head-mounted displays like Google Glass. In fact, he suggested that gesture-based controls could be the key to making those devices take take off, because typing into a keyboard breaks the immersive experience. Not that he’s endorsing Google specifically.

“There are many other companies, both startups and entrenched players, that are working in that space,” he said. “I think that it is going to be inevitable. It’s just a question of when.”

Earlier this week, the team behind the Fleksy gesture keyboard demonstrated their own integration with Leap Motion.