Guest Review by Michael Chapman

To get an idea of how good the Leap Motion gesture control device is, we asked software engineer and megadesk aficionado Michael Chapman to use the Leap Motion for a week and pen his thoughts on the Dick Smith-exclusive.


There were zero issues as the instructions worked as advertised. I Loaded up Airspace, the Leap Motion desktop application, and found there were a couple of apps already installed.


Lotus and Kyoto are both somewhat abstract motion control games from the same developer, Funktronic Labs. Kyoto was quite interesting, presenting me initially with a brightly coloured tree floating in space.

One of the primary concerns with motion control of this type is user feedback when a command doesn’t work, and in this respect Kyoto did an excellent job of demonstrating what its interpretation of my hand position was.

For example, if I needed to grab something and made the correct motion with my hand but nothing happened, by looking at the cursor I could see that my hand was turned slightly and thus obscuring the leap motion’s view of my thumb.

Being Useful

While picking leaves off a tree using motion control is cool and all, my primary interest is in using the Leap Motion as an additional input to the computer to augment the mouse and keyboard I already have. I already use a lot of keyboard customisation to allow movement of windows and selection of key applications such as a browser, email client or terminal. I also use a keyboard without media controls, so getting control of my music back using the Leap Motion seemed like a good fit.

There are a number of apps that allow generic control of an operating system using gestures, ranging from free to $5, with the majority supporting both Windows and OS X. I elected to use BetterTouchTool, as it is OS X only, and it also supports gestures on other Apple peripherals such as the Trackpad and Magic Mouse.

Gestures to Commands

I initially set up ‘2 Finger Swipe’: left for previous track and right for next track. I found this to be terribly inconsistent, and switched to 5 Finger with even worse results.

I soon realised that my palm has to be flat to the desk in order for the gestures to work. This is somewhat counterintuitive, since when using an upright touch input I would expect to have my right palm facing my left and my left palm facing my right while making left/right swipes.

With this sorted out and now working most of time, I set up 2 Finger Swipe to switch applications forward and back for right/left swipes. This works okay for one or two applications, but scrolling through a large list requires moving two fingers into the zone above the leap, pulling them out of the zone, moving back in over the other side and swiping again. This leads to large circular motions of the arms in order to repeatedly scroll through a list of songs or applications, and is not terribly pleasant.

I would say for playing through a list of songs, I might use it since I rarely skip songs, but for scrolling through open applications it’s a bit cumbersome (and Command + Tab is significantly faster).

The problem was even worse with up/down movements. I set Two Finger Up/Down to increase and decrease volume, but since doing an ‘up’ without also doing a ‘down’ is quite difficult, I ended up with my volume gradually approaching zero.


The Leap Motion has great potential. The games clearly showed that it can detect what motions I’m making with my hand, and I think the current issues with controlling are more a matter of clearly defining when gestures start and finish, rather than being a technological dead end.

In its current form, Leap Motion is a fun though essentially pointless device.

Michael Chapman is a software engineer currently running four computers on his megadesk.

How Dick Smith secured the Leap Motion retail exclusive
(Patrick Avenell; 10 October 2013)

Leap Motion, the much-hyped computer peripheral that allows users to control applications with hand gestures, has gone on sale in Australia today exclusively through Dick Smith, including that company’s Move store and David Jones presence.

Developed by a 2010 start-up in San Francisco backed by venture capital and angel investors, Leap Motion is a deceptively small brushed stainless steel box that sits in front of a PC or Mac display and picks up movement in the field above it.

Leap Motion is exclusive to Dick Smith.

This latest iteration of the technology, and the first to launch in Australia, was released in the United States in July 2013 to cautiously positive reviews, including a New York Times article that favourably compared the sensor to Microsoft’s Kinect, while criticising its “inconsistent and frustrating” software.

When working with compatible apps, Leap Motion can provide a seamless, gesture-controlled experience, especially in gaming and design, though there are limitations. For example, while gesture controls can be programed into the Mac OS for broad usage, this is limited on PCs, restricting Windows users to the bespoke applications in the Leap Motion Airspace app store.

Distributing Leap Motion in Australia is Melbourne based wholesalers Blonde Robot. Best known in the consumer electronics retail space as the distributor of GoPro, Blonde Robot has been on a strong brand acquisition run since adding consumer products to its heritage: professional video.

Eamon Drew is one of the directors of Blonde Robot, a company he co-founded in 2010 with Dan Miall and Chris Horsley-Wyatt. Drew had been working at Adimex, a Melbourne-based distributor focused on the pro video channel, and before that at Lako Pacific, meaning he was experienced in the intricacies of the B2B channel, and had developed strong contacts in the videography industry.

Having set up his own wholesaler, Drew and his partners went on “a golden run, picking up a whole bunch of brands”, including IDX, Autocue and Genus Tech — not household brands in retail but well known in the professional space.

This specialisation and no-nonsense attitude to distribution caught the eye of GoPro, which became Blonde Robot’s most famous brand and first consumer range towards the end of 2010.

“We’re different from other distributors in that we have a segmented but broad product base,” Drew said. “We specialise in professional video, that’s our heritage, and off the back of that we picked up GoPro for the pro video and camera space.

“All of sudden, we’re selling GoPro to 300-to-400 camera shops, like Camera House and Ted’s and Michaels, and then we picked up more photography products, and off the back of this, we started moving more into consumer electronics, and so we picked up Lytro and now Leap Motion.”

Lytro is an intriguing if somewhat novelty brand — the darling of the 2012 International CES — that makes a camera that captures images with adjustable focal points.

Having no video or image capturing capabilities makes Leap Motion a new frontier for Blonde Robot. The CE space is not a place for the faint hearted, having suffered severe margin declines over the past five years as brutal competition amongst retailers, and between traditional retailers and online and overseas operators, drove down prices.

Launching a new product exclusively with a retailer to insulate against such declines is becoming common strategy. Interestingly, Drew said Blonde Robot’s preference was to make it available to everyone and not have an exclusive partner, but Leap Motion demurred.

“It was dictated to us by Leap Motion,” he said. “They were looking for an exclusive launch partner, and the head of business development in the US had done business in Australia before, and he said ‘it’s either Dick Smith or JB Hi-Fi’.”

Drew is referring to Chris Loeper, Leap Motion’s VP of worldwide consumer business, who has previously managed international channels for Rovi, Roxio and Mattel. Although Loeper had a soft spot for Dick Smith or JB Hi-Fi, it was really his experience with Best Buy in the United States that proved decisive.

Leap Motion partnered with the ubiquitous chain for its American launch, with Best Buy kicking in around $1 million worth of merchandising and marketing supporting, including some impressive point-of-sale displays. Sources close to the deal say Best Buy took a large number of units up front, sold a good proportion of that at launch, and have since re-ordered.

So successful was this launch, sources said, that Leap Motion’s executives thought, ‘well, that’s our model now’. So, when it came to launch in Australia, Blonde Robot was instructed to find an exclusive partner, with Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi favoured because they have national coverage and centralised operations, with no individual store owners or franchisees.

Although Drew said Dick Smith got the nod because it “gave us the better deal”, there is an emerging attractiveness to launching with Dick Smith as opposed to rival chains. In addition to a national store network comprising over 320 outlets, Dick Smith is now managing the electronics department in all David Jones stores and has opened the first of several ‘fashtronics’ concept stores called Move (‘where fashion meets electronics’).

The Leap Motion will be sold through all three of these retail brands, providing access to a diverse and comprehensive range of consumers.

“Dick Smith has more than 320 retail stores, a presence in many high-profile David Jones stores and a popular online retail site, making it the perfect partner for Leap Motion to launch in Australia,” said Leap Motion president and COO Andy Miller in a statement. “It’s also an ideal place for even more people to experience the magic of using just their hands in the air to play, learn, and create on their computers.”

As for who the Leap Motion will appeal to, Eamon Drew from Blonde Robot tried to not leave anybody out:

“Anyone that has got a computer,” he said, before highlighting early adopters, gamers, educational users, the medical industry (‘being able to use the computer without having to wash your hands’), 3D enthusiasts (‘able to interact with 3D options in a 3D space and not with a 2D space’), and the design and architecture industries.

Drew said retailers should be aware that Leap Motion is not a Mac-specific peripheral, even if does borrow design cues from its northern Californian neighbour.

“It is definitely an Apple-looking product and in the press photos they use iMacs but don’t let the brushed aluminium fool you, it works very well on a Windows computer and there are some OEM partners coming up, including an HP laptop with Leap Motion built in to the notebook hardware,” he said.

Leap Motion is RRP $129.