That little device was a Leap Motion, which arrived at my house unexpectedly in July, 2013. I had pre-ordered it in Nov 2012 and by the time July rolled around, had long forgotten that I’d done so, making it a pleasant surprise.
I plugged it in and started playing with it right away. The creators of the Leap did a fantastic job designing an Apple-esque end-to-end experience. The packaging felt great, the device itself had visual and aesthetic appeal, setup was simple, the APIs were well thought-out and documented, and the app store had some cool initial apps to play around with. Unfortunately, the apps were trivial or offered disappointing experiences, leading many friends to dial up eBay to unload unwanted devices. I have to admit that I was underwhelmed too, after having had my expectations set by the revolutionary vision promoted in videos released during the pre-order campaign.
On February 20th, about 40 developers of all skill ranges shuffled into the basement of 511 Boren Ave North in Seattle, a venue otherwise lovingly known as “The Easy”. Leap Motion had generously sent us about 20 loaner devices in advance of the event, so as everyone settled in they went through the same magical experience I did when I first opened the box and lit up the device.
We went through a few basic examples, with participants making simple modifications to the sample code along the way (workshop presentation here). Then they were off to the races as we kicked off a brainstorming-and-open-project session. They came up with some cool ideas like a Theremin, an interface for exploring gene sequences, and a bunch of other ideas I don’t remember. While none of the more ambitious projects made sense for the short time we had, people built some fun stuff. The project I was most impressed with, which happened to be built by a pair of CodeFellows students, was a rock, paper, scissors app that accurately detected the count and final hand shape using the leap.
In summary, the Leap is a very cool tool that creates opportunities for unique interactive experiences on the web. People jumped way too quickly to concluding that it under-delivers on its promise. It’s easy to develop for and everyone who came to the CodeFellows workshop had a blast, regardless of skill level. I can’t wait to see more creative uses of this technology.