Your Hands are Controllers in Leap Motion’s Interaction Engine

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Leap Motion just dropped a major upgrade—Interaction Engine 1.0—to immerse your mind and hands in VR.

Last year, digital-physical interaction pioneer Leap Motion released an early access beta of Interacton Engine. In providing developers a way to incorporate scanning technology into Unity, Leap Motion enabled a new breed of VR experience—one where participants used their own hands to interact with digital objects rather than controllers. During the beta, the company refined its system, culminating in the official introduction of Interaction Engine 1.0 and their new graphic renderer earlier this month—a move that will fundamentally transform our interactive capabilities in immersive reality.

So how does it work?

Attached to a headset, Leap Motion shines an infrared light on a user’s hands to identify the individual joints—information that is then piped through an API to render a digital version of the person’s hands that can operate in virtual reality.

“We have known for decades that given the right audiovisual stimuli, we have a paired kinesthetic experience,” said Rachel Sibley, VP of Product Marketing at Leap Motion. “That is a really profound part of the feelingof the sense of immersion and presence that has created Leap Motion technology.”

The Interaction Engine allows users to hover near, touch, or grasp objects in virtual reality. But Leap Motion engineers and technicians ran into an interesting challenge: how to deal with the boundlessness of virtual reality. In other words, how can users interact with objects that may never exist in real life?

“In the real physical environment the laws of physics already exist; in the digital environment you have to code them,” Sibley said. “And because digital objects don’t have mass or force you have to actually build that into your world. If you are VR developer creating the world, you have to code the physics of the environment.”

Sibley said it was also incredibly important to make movement natural to human behavior and instinct, something that Leap Motion tuned significantly since launching the beta last year.

“You can have the world’s most perfect tracking,” Sibley said, “but if you don’t have the laws of physics nothing will feel natural, nothing will feel delightful and magical and intuitive.”

Sibley said she hopes Leap Motion will help define the next generation of immersive technology, especially with a focus on mobile devices.

“In order for this technology to go mainstream you have to work within a technology paradigm that is seamless for everyone,” Sibley said “We essentially believe technology is at its best when technology disappears when it’s not interrupting your experience.”

Photos courtesy of Leap Motion

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