Hands-On: Leap Motion on your HP keyboard

leap motion game - small.jpgLeap Motion’s technology – being able to waggle your fingers over a sensor to control apps – is a glimpse into the future. The first gut-reaction everyone thinks of is Minority Report for Windows 8.1. Or having a Tony Stark-esque lair outfitted with this tech. We’re not quite there yet, but I had a chance to tinker with a couple new HP products – the ENVY 17 Leap Motion SE laptop and the new optional Leap Motion keyboard you can select when ordering PCs. Wanna know how it works out? Keep reading….

 

Before I jump headlong into the nerdity, I need to point out one thing up front: HP is the first company to embed Leap Motion tech into our computers.  Why? Because we are always looking at new ways for you to interact with PC. Hell, we were making touch screen PCs back in 1983 while everyone else was just starting to mouse around. I’ll spare you the whole history lesson, but let’s get back to the million dollar question: “How do Leap Motion’s sensors perform?” I’m glad you asked.

 

leap motion keyboard - small.jpgThe Optional HP USB Leap Motion Keyboard
Let’s start with the news. The following desktops and all-in-one PCs offer up the optional Leap Motion keyboard.

  • HP ENVY Recline
  • HP ENVY Touchsmart
  • HP Pavilion 23
  • HP Pavilion 23 TouchSmart
  • HP Pavilion 21 TouchSmart
  • HP ENVY 700
  • HP ENVY Phoenix 810
  • HP Pavilion 500

The keyboard peripheral has a Leap Motion sensor embedded dead-center along the top of the keyboard. Along that sensor, you’ll spot running lights to indicate that the sensor is active. My first ProTip: Align your keyboard so that it sits centered in front of your screen. That ensures your finger pointing lines up pretty well with what you’re seeing.

 

When you launch the software, it calibrates the sensor for the environment. And if the lighting changes, it auto-adjusts. So, for my tests I intentionally left the blinds open – I even aimed an LED light directly at the keyboard and tried to mess up the IR sensor’s readings. Because I like trying to break things. For the most part, it remained pretty consistent. BUT if the lighting conditions change while you’re using it, the software needs to re-adjust. It worked just fine whether I was playing games or dissecting spiders. Dissecting animals? Yep, let’s go into some of the cool apps I tested.

 

leap motion dissection - small.jpgTHE APPS

What I should clear up is that you need to run the AirSpace app launcher in order to use apps that work with Leap Motion’s sensor. You can’t just Fire up Windows 8.1 and expect this to control everything. (There are some apps in their infancy, like Touchless, which promise the ability to control Windows 8.1.) For the time being, it’s a neat interface for games, music, and educational tools. For example, I showed the Cyber Science 3D Motion Edition Zoology app to a friend that works in a university science department and she was impressed with this ease-of-use dissection tool. I was cutting up tarantulas, earthworms and caterpillars with ease. No digital creatures were harmed while running this app.

 

There are 3D molding apps like the zen Freeform and visualizers like the Water Waves Screensaver…even the orientation tool is neat to just goof around with…but a drawing app like Family Paint is a fun little no-brainers that shows off how Leap Motion works to the kids. It also happens to be an app exclusive to HP customers. Poke into the screen to select colors or start drawing on the digital canvas and pull back when done. Just don’t test if you’re two cups of coffee into your morning while testing this app.

 

A number of Windows interface apps are popping up in the AirSpace Store on a weekly basis. I’m still testing out the likes of Pointable – there’s also an app, GameWAVE, meant to make your hands the controller for games you already play. I need more time to train with both, but they do show some promise.

 

Me? I’m firing up the AirSpace games made specifically for Leap Motion! Before I rattle off a couple awesome games worth checking out a ProTip for all you gamers out there: Try holding your arm out. Go on. I’ll wait. Your arm tired yet? You’ll need to take breaks when you play some of these games - it’s the same caveats that applied when people first started playing with a Wiimote, years back. Find the right games and you won't notice. Or you'll improve your arm strength. Either way: WIN!

 

Autonomous: I’m warming up to this game that blends using WASD keys like in a first-person shooter while using your right hand, hovering in the air, to construct things. It’s free so it’s absolutely worth trying out for yourself.

Boomball / Boomball Adventures: It’s a 3-dimensional game of breakout where you use your hand (and how you angle your hand) to control the boom balls. Just trust me, get this.

 

Darts Party: I don’t get to go down to the local pub like I used to – I miss knocking back darts with the guys. So, if you’re jonesing for a game of cricket. It’s kind neat to try aiming at the screen, cocking back your hand and hurling digital darts. The game’s UI is a little raw, but I’ll take my darts where I can.

 

Dropchord: Want to feel like you're at the club - minus the crowds? You’re in control of a trippy music game where the goal is to connect the dots to music. Sounds odd, but it is fun with the Leap Motion controller.

 

Suspect in Sight: Use your hand like some digital puppeteer to control a police helicopter as you steer it around the city to catch crooks.

 

Blue Estate - Tony Luciano and the Twin Dragons: This game sent me back to the days of Time Crisis and Mad Dog McCree – but this time your finger is the gun to point and shoot. Aim at the screen with your finger-guns and fire. Also, this game is DEFINITELY NOT for kids. The opening scene pretty much sets the NSFW tone. That said, I’m having fun with it.

 

The only quirk I’ve noticed is that if I take my hand out of the sensor zone for a little too long I need to remind it that I’m still here. A quick tap of the Fn and the Space bar – or I could start waving my hand over it. – no problem. The reason it does this: Power-Saving mode. You can go into the Leap Motion Control Panel and try unchecking “Automatic Power Saving.”

 

Other than that, the Leap Motion-enabled keyboard is slim and unobtrusive and fits in nicely on a desk (or tucks away easily when you don’t need it).

 

envy 17 leap motion closeup - small.jpgThe ENVY 17 Leap Motion Special Edition laptop (Starting at $1,049)

Well, here’s where we take a new bit of tech on the road. All the above rules still apply. However, there are a couple extra things you need to know, up front. First off, the sensor is parked on the right quadrant of the wrist rest area. It’s not a huge deal, but something to keep in mind if you’re trying to coordinate what you’re seeing on-screen versus where your hand is hovering over your laptop. The only other “x” factor with the ENVY 17 is that you’ve got to remember that this IR sensor-based technology is embedded into a laptop. When you set it up in new locations – a coffee shop to impress your buddies, for instance – you’re restarting the PC in different lighting conditions. The Leap Motion sensor will need to auto-adjust again.

 

In short, it’s a neat slice of the future. There’s more API developments coming soon that I’ve heard of – but I can’t talk about them just yet. Just keep your eyes peeled to see what apps come out that take advantage of the Leap Motion platform next. If you have specific questions about how it works and what it does, hit me in the comments and ask away!

 

 

 

Comments
by starsima February

this is agreat work i love games and adding the technology is the most good from hp and the review about the AirSpace app is very useful to know about this program . i love this topic i will share it to my freinds

thanks

 

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