The new Leap Motion promises a completely new way of interacting with presentations. Does it deliver, or will it take a bit of getting used to like the iPad has done for business and presentations?

The Leap Motion has arrived and jumped straight in to the world of presentations potentially meaning a step change for presenters. (OK, this is a painful sentence, but what I really wanted to write was the rather pun-laden ‘The Leap Motion has leaped in and lept straight into the world of presentations potentially meaning a leap up for presenters’).

Leap what?

The Leap Motion device is a small rectangular object that sits in front of your computer and allows you to control applications on your screen using nothing but your hands waving around in mid-air, all packed into a small device just bigger than a USB pen drive, or a USB Wi-Fi dongle. In principle it sounds great, but when you think about, what applications could it have over touch screens, or more traditional interfaces such as mice and keyboards?

Think Minority report for your next sales presentation. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring hands free gesture technology into your meetings? You could create new content, move it, spin it, zoom in, zoom out, and transition between content that is relevant to your topic of conversation. It could be the ultimate visual conversation, particularly if it allowed our audience to participate too and move through the virtual world that you can essentially physically manipulate.

Leap motion in PowerPoint sales presentations

Like so many things now the Leap Motion comes with its own app store, a bit like iTunes or the Android market, and usefully one of the launch apps, called AirPoint, allows you to control PowerPoint presentations.

As you can see, in this short sequence, I’ve tried to use the relatively limited functionality of the Leap Motion AirPoint app. It’s OK, but isn’t nearly as accurate as I’d like it to be and requires you to be very careful, precise and slow with your movements, so it feels somewhat unnatural. The swipe function to move to the next animation or slide is more gimmicky than useful, particularly in its current state, as it seems difficult to control and often goes back instead of forward when using the easy swipe function, and the standard function using tabs on the left or right is somewhat awkward. I don’t see why you would want to use it more than a standard presentation remote at the moment, particularly given that the pointer is permanently on screen, making it quite distracting.

The annotation tool has potential, but compared with some of the other drawing apps, seems somewhat cumbersome. I don’t want to be too harsh, as it’s very early in development I’m sure, but it’s not really usable at the moment in a sales presentation or training environment where you have to think about so many other things. At the moment, graphics tablets, or even a mouse are probably easier to use, but less convenient, so let’s hope that the functionality improves a little.

What would be really nice is to see even more functions available. Rather than just advance, pointer, annotate, and clear, I’d love to see the ability to manipulate objects on the screen to pick them up and move them, zoom in and out of a canvas like Prezi or PowerPoint with PPT Plex. It would be great to be able to move into other programs too, to create a really intuitive, flowing visual conversation.

Leap Motion device

Should you get one?

In a word, no. In two, not yet. I really don’t think that your next sales presentation will be enhanced by the Leap Motion at the moment. It’s a nice idea, but isn’t quite there yet. I don’t know what needs to improve – whether it’s the hardware, software, or even the user needing to get used to a completely new interface – but it doesn’t really deliver. Accuracy issues aside, there needs to be more functionality available. There are 75 launch apps, 43 of which are games. There are only 12 apps for productivity (9 for Mac and 7 for Windows) and not all of them work (I couldn’t get the Windows Touch interface app to work and several people have already complained about some of the others). It’s still early days, and so like the iPad, it could be the next big thing, but given that you have to connect it to your computer, it will need some fantastic software to change things as much as Apple did back in 2010.

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Richard Goring

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