Taking a Leap (Motion) into Second Life

While I’ve been buried in dio, working on an interactive guide to … something … Linden Lab slipped out another little surprise this week via the blog.

Reaching Out into Second Life looks at the use of Leap Motion for interacting with SL. The work is being carried out by Simon Linden, and is clearly tagged as experimental, but it shows the potential of Second Life as a platform for exploring gesture-based interactions with controllers like Leap Motion.

Nor are the Lab keeping matters to themselves. The blog post states:

If you have a Leap Motion controller and would like to experiment with the Second Life Viewer, you can find the source code for these experiments at http://bitbucket.org/simon_linden/viewer-rabbit. The indra/newview/llleapmotioncontroller.cpp file contains most new functionality. The Viewer is built to work in several different modes. These modes can be used to control the avatar while flying, send data into Second Life for scripts to intercept, detect hand motions that trigger avatar gestures, or control the camera and avatar movement. To switch between these modes use the “LeapMotionTestMode” value in the Debug Settings, accessible from the Advanced menu.

Commenting on his work, Simon Linden re-emphasised the experimental nature of the work and it’s possibilities, “It’s nowhere near a real feature. But it’s certainly fun to make things happen waving your hand around … I think we’ll see some very interesting stuff in the future.” He went on, “I think there’s potential there, along with touch screens, but it’s going to take a lot of work and experiments to see what really is good or not.”

The Leap Motion device (image courtesy of leapmotion.com)
The Leap Motion device for Windows / Mac (image courtesy of leapmotion.com)

If you’re wondering why Simon has his hand cocked sideways when firing the pop-gun in the video, he’s not trying to emulate any cool Hollywood or gangster-style of shooting, the Leap Motion device sensors demonstrated a blind spot when he was testing the unit, and would not register his thumb motion if he had his thumb pointing upwards.

For those wishing to try things out for themselves, Leap Motion can be ordered from the Leap Motion website, with prices starting from $69.99 + shipping (for the USA), which does not make it prohibitively expensive. It’s also capable of being put to a wide variety of uses as Leap Motion’s own promo video demonstrates.

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7 thoughts on “Taking a Leap (Motion) into Second Life

  1. One correction and one caveat:

    The correction is that the Leap Motion control is up for pre-order at the time.

    The caveat is that I don’t see any support for OSes outside Windows and Mac OS X. As an idea, though, it looks good.

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    1. It is the sort of thing that could get Linux support pretty quickly. It has a certain geek-appeal. But there is enough UI competition in Linux that it might be hard to get widespread Linux support.

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      1. You mean KDE v Xfce v Unity (it’s crap) v Gnome 3 (crap squared) v Cinnamon v MATE (Gnome 2 fork) v FVWM v Enlightenment v LXDE v various assorted obsolete (Windowmaker & CDE) or nigh-on useless (Ratpoison and the like) window managers/desktop environments? 🙂

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  2. Baaaaah! I am among those who got a SpaceNavigator when it was hyped for use in SL, I some times use it for flying around but it is not good for much else. I doubt this will be any better.

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    1. What occurs to me is that this, if set up properly, has the potential to give an existing monitor something like a touch-screen. Which, from what I have seen of the Windows 8 UI, might be useful to some users.

      I use a tablet. For some things touch screens, and maybe hand gestures, are a useful way of working (Note: invest in screen cleaning products). It’s good that the Lindens are aware of stuff like this. But since they have poor support for such established tech as a USB-connected gamepad, I find it hard to enthuse about the prospects for this as a UI tool for SL.

      Would I buy one? As a UI tool it is coming up against mouse+keyboard. If it were precise enough to mark a block of text, it might work. But it needs bigger on-screen buttons. I just pointed at a UI button on my browser, and my finger was moving slightly. My angle of view introduces errors between apparent and actual position. Perhaps more personal, but I think likely to be commonplace, what about the arm-strain from the new sorts of movement?

      Are touch-screens for desktop computing a good idea? I’m not sure, but this might fit very well with that. 3D hand gestures could add a lot. But integrating the new UI tool into software, that will be hard.

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    2. I think a lot of machinima makers will disagree with you about the usefulness of the Space Navigator :). Time will tell with Leap Motion.

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