HP Takes Leap of Faith Into Motion Control Tech
Instead of pushing buttons, pressing keys, or even swiping at a touchscreen, imagine gesturing as a way to interact with your computer. HP is picturing that possibility with the addition of Leap Motion technology to some of its forthcoming PCs. It's actually cheaper to embed the motion control system in computers than to equip them with touchscreens. Those savings, plus Leap's more intuitive user interface, could usher in a new era of PC popularity.
Select PCs from HP bundled with Leap Motion's technology will be available this summer, HP spokesperson Cherie Britt told TechNewsWorld. Devices with the Leap Motion Controller technology embedded in them will come later.
"At HP, it's all about delivering incredible user experiences," Britt said. "Leap Motion's groundbreaking 3D motion control, combined with HP technology and amazing developer apps, will create incredible user experiences."
HP is the second major OEM to work with Leap. ASUS announced in January that it will bundle Leap Motion Controllers with its high-end notebooks and premium All-in-One PCs later this year.
"We're still working with ASUS," Michael Buckwald, CEO of Leap Motion, told TechNewsWorld. The company is also working with "a number of" major OEMs, but HP "is the first OEM to announce plans to embed Leap Motion's technology into unique devices."
More About Leap's Technology
The Leap Motion controller has a 150-degree field of view, and tracks all of a user's fingers at 250 frames per second. Its touch-free technology uses sensors rather than VGA cameras to detect motion, synthesizes or extrapolates information from that sensor data, and displays the result.
The technology can track movements smaller than the head of a pin, the company said.
Leap Motion has opened up its application programming interface (API) to developers.
The Leap Motion Controller, which will be shipped on May 13, can be pre-ordered from Leap's site for US$80. That price includes the controller, two USB cables and free downloads from Leap's app store. The controller will work on PCs running Windows 7 or 8 on an Intel Core processor, or Macs running Mac OS X 10.8.
Leap Motion has also entered a limited exclusive agreement with electronics retail giant Best Buy.
Shot in the Arm for PC Makers?
Leap's technology is widely seen as a possible replacement for touchscreens, which might boost the appeal of PCs in the marketplace.
Touchscreen technology is expensive to implement in computers, and has been blamed by NPD for the sluggish sales PC makers experienced during the first quarter of the year. Touch-ready PC notebooks have been offered for more than $500, which has deterred potential buyers, NPD added.
PC sales in the first quarter were almost 14 percent lower year over year than in 2012, the steepest decline ever in a single quarter, according to a recent IDC study.
"Leap's controller is thinner than 3D cameras and is offered at $80, while 3D cameras cost $150," Bob O'Donnell, a program vice president at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "Cheaper and thinner are big pluses."
Leap's technology will help PC sales "if it's cheaper to integrate than a touchscreen," O'Donnell said.
"PC makers have no other option but to add more and more features that differentiate them," David Daoud, a director of research at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. "The PC era where the system is the same design for all customers -- business, consumers, 80-year-olds, 15-year-olds -- is gone. What's really going to drive the market is differentiation."
HP is betting that Leap's technology will be its differentiator. "Our customers are looking for new ways to interact with, create and view content," Britt said. "This collaboration with Leap will help take the user experience to the next level."
However, Leap's technology may not have as much of an impact on the PC market as it should because of external factors.
"The timing is right, consumers are looking for differentiation," Daoud said, "but we're going through a period of upheaval in the industry -- companies are restructuring -- and that challenges the timing because OEMs are revisiting their strategies and that's taking their attention away from innovations."