Leap Motion has fortuitous timing. Not only is it commercially available in Sri Lanka, it’s also found its way into the development labs at Leapset, a Silicon Valley company known for their rather cool kitchen stuff (seriously – they’re overturning about a century’s worth of kitchen traditions to optimize how things work).
As we walked into the Leapset Office yesterday, a developer was enthusiastically giving a presentation on how they intend to use iBeacons. iBeacon, for those of us who haven’t completely plugged into the Apple-o-sphere, is an Apple technology that allows a little low-cost device to use Bluetooth to push notifications to iOS or Android devices that get too close. “Beware of the Dog,” for instance, or “20% off on Kottu.” The hardware itself is available at different price points, and under various guises. The one Leapset demo’d, for example, looked like this:
Leapset, after showing off the iBeacon’s applications (pushing adverts, for example), spoke at length about their new focus – the back end of things. What Leapset is looking into now are ways of digitizing the vital functions that happen in the back of restaurant – including the browsing of recipes – while using more natural interaction systems, like gesture recognition, to interact with the system. They’ve a demo off an app to access what looks like a nice, large and very cleanly visible receipts and recipes, operated via Leap Motion.
“Let’s say he’s cooking and he needs to access a recipe, but can’t risk contamination, he can easily float over, and access his recipes section,” said the engineer, demonstrating a table of pending orders that the chefs would have to whip up, a spare, somewhat skeumorphic interface that looked quite a lot like a wooden table with strips of incoming receipts neatly stacked in one corner. However, it wasn’t as smooth as it sounds on paper – as is, the thing is more a curious loss of productivity than something the average chef would jump at in a time of crisis. However, it does show a few new possibilities.
“These things are still very much works in progress,” said Shanil Fernando, Leapset’s Senior VP of Engineering, in response to my questions about the viability of Leap. “The tech isn’t perfect, to be honest. We’re looking at not just Leap, but other technologies as well. In fact, Microsoft’s Kinect is the most stable solution at the moment, but so far they’ve only embedded their tech in their own devices. That might change – there’s talk that they might soon be opening up their APIs.
Above: the most impressive application of Leap Motion we’ve seen to date.
There’s also the option of going with our own custom hardware. We actually might. We might even end up open-sourcing it – there’s an internal debate between the engineers and the bizdev team right now as to whether we go open source or not. I suppose only time and the solution we come up with will determine that. What we really want to show is that this tech is here. When we say “app” now, there can be a lot more than swiping on a pad or clicking with the mouse. The tech is truly on the way. We might be seeing real products and real, viable applications a year down the line.”
It’s interesting to see this level of research carried out in Sri Lanka, a country traditionally associated with outsourced services rather than product development. Will we be seeing the interfaces of Minority Report anytime soon? If you ask the R&D guys at Leapset, we very well might be – and there’s a good chance that that code will have been written, tested and deployed here in a lab in Sri Lanka.