Leap Motion Controller: what’s really gained?

Before I head out for the weekend, I wanted to share this little nugget I discovered the other day.  It’s an article about the Leap Motion Controller, a mouse-like computer controller that’s designed as possibly the future of human interface with computers.  Here is the article:

Leap Motion Controller

While I do find the concept both intriguing and long overdue, I agree with this article’s assessment that this development really isn’t the future of interface, and I think the reason is quite simple: the lack of actual tactile sensation with the device that’s supposed to mimic it.  There is no sense of feel in this device, which makes the fact that it’s supposed to simulate three dimensional contact of central importance.  The ability to pick up and manipulate a block on a screen by doing what you would normally do to an actual block, but without actually feeling that block, doesn’t actually make much sense.  What, indeed, is the point of that kind of interface?  If you’re just trying to move the block in the first place, why not just point and click on it with a mouse, instead of force yourself to try to mimic the motions of picking something up when it’s not really there?

While I do think that utilizing basic controls like zoom and screen movement in a hands-free manner is nice, what’s left out of this picture is actual haptics.  If you were using this Leap Motion Controller with, say, a haptic glove that could actually stimulate your sense of touch so you know when you’re actually picking up a virtual object, you’d have a much more viable step forward into the future of computer interface.  But when this simulation of touch is left without any actual touch in it, you just have something that might seem novel for a bit, but in the end will just seem kind of annoying.

The larger question is, will something like virtual reality ever effectively incorporate haptics to the point where exploring an actual virtual world becomes a viable business enterprise.  VR has been around for so long, yet hasn’t really gone anywhere in two decades.  Why is that?  What happened to the appeal of virtual reality?  Is it still there to be recovered?  Is there value for the future in developing VR further?  I personally think there is, but the correct method by which it will become either popular or useful hasn’t been discovered yet.  My thoughts on this are better saved for a future post, but at the very least, this Leap Motion Controller doesn’t seem to really add anything that new to the table, save making the world look a little more like Minority Report.

What do you think?


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