This post is inspired by Scott Hanselman's recent review of the Leap Motion (Leap Motion: Amazing, Revolutionary, Useless). I found (and still believe) his comments about it failing to be a solid UI replacement for traditional devices like the mouse (Minority Report, like the Hoverboard, continues to be a pipe dream) to be true, but I countered that I found the term "useless" to be rather unfair.
Although I fancy myself a developer, I'm not much of a tinkerer, so I hardly have the time or patience to try to create anything with this device. Consequently I can't speak at all to how useful this thing will be for the average consumer. But the moment I discovered it several months ago, I immediately saw the potential for one scenario; my other passion: music.
In my spare time I like to play around in my studio and on the decks, mixing and producing electronic music (yes, tech events, I am free for booking at the next big conference after party!). The Leap Motion looked like it would make a fantastic controller for manipulating sounds on the fly with the flick of a wrist.
I preordered the device, sight unseen, the day I discovered it. It just got here a few weeks ago, and I am already blown away by how awesome this thing is.
Geco: It's all About the MIDI
My controller of choice for mixing music is the Traktor S4, which can respond to MIDI signals to control virtually any parameter in the DJ software. The Leap Motion itself doesn't output any MIDI signals, but thankfully the geniuses over at UWYN already solved this problem with the Geco software (available for both Mac and Windows, and at $9.99 worth every penny!). Not only does this software convert motions from the Leap controller to MIDI, but it exposes a whole RANGE of inputs based on both the position, motion, and orientation of your hand and fingers.
This makes for potentially DOZENS of simultaneous control messages you can manipulate simultaneously, assuming of course, you have a) the hands (check) and b) the coordination (I'm working on it!).
I especially love how the "hand present" maps as a trigger (rather than a knob/fader). Combine this with the multiple input mapping of Traktor and you can use it to toggle on effects or switches only while your hand is present, then sweep the parameters of that filter with different hand motions.
Best of all, the software differentiates between hand "open" and "closed", allowing you to switch between parameters literally on the fly.
The Geco documentation page explains this better than I ever could. In addition if you want to see in action many different ways the Leap Motion can be used, check out their Video Tutorials as well as this cool beatboxing video making the rounds on YouTube.
Shut Up and Play Some Music
I can talk more about how I set this up on my machine, including the Traktor mappings, if anyone is interested. But in the meantime, I recorded a quick and dirty 8 minute demo of how I am trying to incorporate this into my routine. It's a little rough as I'm still getting used to flailing my arms around without looking like a total jerk. I also only mapped a tiny subset of the available parameters to the filter, reverb, and beatmasher, but hope to be able to expand this as I get better at it (see previous sentence about flailing arms).
There is slight, but noticeable lag every now and then, especially when attempting to manipulate more than one controller with a single hand, but I'm hoping this will improve as both Leap Motion and Geco continue to evolve.
I've posted the video over on my DJ blog, and embedded it below from my YouTube Channel.
Please feel free to send me any questions, comments or suggestions (or event bookings; you can pay me in conference tickets and beer!).
All in all, the $80 Leap Motion (plus $10 for the Geco software) was a no-brainer investment and welcome addition to my (and any) studio. Tricky perhaps, but useless? Never!