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The Leap Motion 3D controller is an emerging technology that may soon change how we interface with our computers. The Leap Motion controller allows users to control their computer in a way that is similar to the Kinect for the Xbox, by controlling their computer’s mouse pointer with gestures in the air above the device. The controller can be used as an alternative to other mouse inputs. At this point, the device’s computer control apps still require users to have fairly good manual dexterity. One possibility for this device could be as a “nominal cost” assistive technology to meet obligations under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not specified a price point for “nominal cost,” but at $79.99, it could be considered a third party technology that could facilitate access for users with disabilities where other more expensive solutions would normally be required.

Description of the Leap Motion

The device is a rectangular shape, a little larger than a USB drive, and has a motion camera on the top of it. The device projects a three-dimensional, cube-shaped sensitivity field above it, in which users can move their hands and fingers to create mouse input. Users can draw, play games, create 3D objects, and control the computer with the Leap Motion controller, all within this sensitivity field. The device has an App Store called Airspace that can be accessed from the Airspace Home desktop application. Airspace has many free and paid apps available that expand what can be done with the device.

Brief Review of Leap Motion with Windows Apps

Testing the Leap Motion controller for assistive technology purposes was limited to computer control apps that users with limited dexterity would use. Two free apps were tested: Touchless for Windows and Handwave. In addition, three paid apps were tested: Air Input ($4.99), Pointable ($4.99), and OS Control for Internet Explorer ($1.99).

Touchless for Windows is the simplest app, and the easiest to use for individuals with limited dexterity. Touchless allows users to control the mouse with one finger. The vertical side of the invisible sensitivity field projected above the device is like a touch pad in the air. Users can move their finger around this touch pad. Instead of a mouse arrow, the mouse is a large circle. As users push into the field, the circle gets smaller, allowing them to hone in on what they want to click. To activate an actionable item, users continue to push their finger into the field. When the click action is activated, the circle turns red. This app can be used with the Windows On-Screen keyboard to provide keyboard access.

All of the other apps that were tested required more complex motions to control the computer. For example, the Air Input allows users to scroll by moving their finger in a circle. These apps required more complex gestures that would be more difficult to use for people with limited manual dexterity. Depending on the users’ abilities and preferences, these other tools may be more useful. All of the apps tested only recognize finger movements and do not recognize other tools like a stylus, pen, or a pencil.

Summary

The Leap Motion 3D controller is an innovative tool that can help some users with limited manual dexterity achieve better accessibility. As the software continues to develop, the device has great potential to be a new tool for users with motor impairments. Settings to control the speed of users’ movements would help this device be more useful to more users with limited manual dexterity. The controller could also be made more effective if the apps worked with tools like a pen or a pencil. At this point, Touchless for Windows is the simplest app to use because no complex movements are required. The Leap Motion 3D controller will become a more useful tool as more apps are developed for the device.