Leap Motion is about to put your hands into mobile VR

Impressive hand tracking tech goes wireless
Hand tracking coming to mobile VR

As Oculus starts shipping its Touch controllers, Leap Motion is edging closer to killing the physical controller entirely.

The company has announced it is bringing its hand tracking technology to mobile VR, meaning soon you can start interacting with VR worlds as you were always promised. However, rather than slapping on the same sensor that attaches to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Leap is teaming up with headset manufacturers to embed it directly into the visor, which means it won't be sold as a separate peripheral.

The approach remains cost effective for Leap and its partners, but will give the technology a better chance at becoming ubiquitous. "VR hasn't connected with the mainstream," Leap Motion CTO David Holz told us. "This is the start of a trend towards the consumerisation of virtual reality."

For mobile, the tracking has been improved to make it faster and give it an improved 180 x 180 field of vision, up from the 140 x 120 of the original controller.

The version we tried was a reference design built into a Samsung Gear VR. Leap Motion isn't announcing partners just yet, but told us that we can expect to start hearing names in the new year. It wouldn't surprise us to see Samsung among these, building Leap's sensor into its next Gear, and with a bunch of Daydream headsets still to come, we hope to see Leap's technology being supported widely.

The team said it's in talks with a lot of names, so fingers crossed. And lest we forget - there's also potential for Leap's tech to be used for augmented and mixed reality.

The experience we tried on Leap Motion Mobile was an updated version of Leap's Orion demo, which booted us into a world in which we could sit and make shapes come alive with our hands by simply pinching our fingers together and drawing them into existence.

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Moving onto mobile also means multiplayer becomes more viable, and we got to try the demo with another player who appeared as a floating pair of eyes and hands in front of us.

Using the shapes to build towers with another person, and even playing a game of catch, we became aware of how quickly we had got used to having our hands in VR. We love Oculus Touch and Vive's wands, but going back to them after this was going to suck.

Being on mobile means it doesn't provide the room scale of Vive or Oculus right now, so it will be for seated/stationary experiences only. Nonetheless, for mobile VR the significance of this leap should not be underestimated.

Leap's tracking tech is impressively accurate; our hands would sometimes go into a frenzy when held too low for the sensor, but otherwise every finger movement was carefully realised in VR.

Leap Motion believes we'll start seeing mobile VR headsets using its tech next year, and will be demoing it to the public at various VR events in 2017. We're already limbering up our fingers in anticipation.



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