Is the Leap Motion the next great Google Earth controller?

There are a variety of neat third-party devices to help you use Google Earth, but for me nothing has been greater than the 3DConnexion SpaceNavigator. It’s a simple device, but packs a lot of power and control. I’ve used a variety of control devices over the years and nothing has even come close to the control I can get with it.
The next potentially great device is coming soon from Leap Motion. It’s a gesture-based controller that they claim is “200 times more accurate than anything else on the market”. Based on the videos they’ve produced, that seems entirely possible.

In the video above, around the 20 second mark, you’ll see them using the controller to control a digital map (Bing Maps in this case, I believe). It seems likely that it could be configured to control Google Earth as well. But will be a superior way to move around?
My concern is that it may be similar to the Sandio 3D Mouse that I reviewed five years ago, in that it could be difficult to perform more than one action at a time. With the space navigator I can pan while diving while rotating in one fluid movement. That could get complicated with hand gestures. I’ll be very curious to see how that works out.
The Leap Motion isn’t for sale yet, but you can pre-order one on their site for $69.99 with the promise of it shipping in “early 2013”. My pre-order is in, and I’ll certainly write up a full review once I get a chance to play with it.
Have you pre-ordered one yet? Do you think it will be a nice addition to your computer, or just another gimmick?

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. I pre-ordered one months ago and I really hope they have enough developers out there to make it useful. In the end it’s going to come down to the support it receives on the developer end. Your fear that it may be difficult to perform more than one action at a time could be a real problem.

  2. At first glance it made me think how long one can hold their arms streched up. And I found articles about the so-called gorilla-arm syndrome which makes the whole thing dubious.

  3. One problem I see with this kind of technology is that your arms / hands have to be “in the air” and entirely moving all the time which is completely uncomfortable. I guess it´s more usefull some kind of glove that you could move while you have your arm resting over your legs or desk.

  4. I think it’s good for e.g. screens in museums build for interaction. Maybe it could be useful for interactingt with a TV or so while sitting on a couch – if a long distant use is possible.
    Using it on a desktop for longer or for exact inputs in’s possibly

Leave a Reply