So I finally received my own Leap Motion Controller (developer’s kit) to allow me to test it and play with it. I had a “pre-experience” last March though, during SXSW in Austin (Texas), but having it home is a whole different thing.

First emotions: a sneak-peek into the future.

When I first saw the box, it felt a privilege to have it in my hands so early (a couple of months prior its official launch, July 22nd). The dev kit per se is quite basic: a Leap Motion device, a connection cable, and a letter welcoming me to the developer’s program. I’m not a developer myself (I basically blogged my way to the program), so the attempt to make it work was both exciting and frightening. I had to download the Software Development Kit (SDK) from the developer’s portal, which includes a driver for the Leap Motion, the LeapSDK and some examples.

It took me just a few minutes to make it work. One of the examples available was the Flocking Demo, which I had already seen early this year in Texas. Since there really isn’t much to do (Airspace won’t be open to the public until the official Leap Motion beta-testing starts in June), I decided to give Google Earth a shot.

#leapinto Google Earth

Google Earth is impressive on its own, that’s a fact. Now, in terms of navigation, I enabled the Leap Motion Controller and within a few minutes I started “flying” around the Earth. At first that globe went crazy. It was spinning non-stop and I couldn’t get it to focus on one point. A few minutes later, I finally got it.

Here’s the thing about 3D interfaces: we’re used to 2D interaction (mouse, tablets or touch-screens). At the beginning, it’s hard to grasp the idea of moving around a virtual 3D interface, since it requires you to be aware of all types of possible movements. It’s not about left, right, up and down, it’s also about how you move your fingers, inclining your hand to get a different perspective while moving down to zoom in, then slightly turning to switch direction.

I quickly moved from Miami to New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Tokyo, Madrid and Barcelona. The trick is to imagine you’re -sort of- playing with an Earth globe toy: you put your hand on top and move the ball around. Again, sort of.

Use and misuse: what’s in it for consumers?

Some comments I’ve heard (and read) regarding the use of Leap Motion is how uncomfortable it can be. Holding your arms in the air for several minutes is exhausting. True. After about 20 minutes of extensive use I couldn’t hold my arm in the air anymore. However, I managed to reach a comfortable position with my elbows resting on the table, which made everything easier. But that’s not the point, is it?

I honestly doubt the Leap Motion Controller was conceived for prolonged and uninterrupted periods of time. Its downsides are quite obvious. Therefore, my understanding is that this would be a misuse of the product. I watch movies on my iPad, but it’s exasperating to hold it for more than 10 minutes.

Now, think about it as a complement. Have you ever used short-codes for quicker actions? CTRL+C, CTRL+V, CTRL+Z, etc. We basically use them because they help us work faster. So consider a hand gesture as an even faster shot-code. Wave up to copy, wave down to paste, open your hand to zoom in, close it to zoom out.

And that’s just a part of it. But that’s yet to be uncovered in the next few weeks… so hold tight.