The Intel NUC: Leap Motion + GameWAVE=Awesome

A while back I wrote about the various remote control options available for home theater PCs in general and the NUC in particular.  One of the options I wasn't able to review because it wasn't out yet was the Leap Motion controller.  It was released last month and I've had mine for a couple of weeks now.  I’m happy to report the Leap Motion combined with an app from the AirPlay app store comes pretty close to the 'Minority Report' experience I was hoping for it.  There is huge promise in the device and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it embedded in future laptops.

When I first received my Leap Motion I was like a kid at Christmas.  It looked neat (like a fat USB thumb drive), was easy to set up, and had that instant "WOW!" factor when I went through the calibration and  visualization.  Just the ability to see a computer representation of my hands on the screen was amazingly cool.  There were several apps in the app store (compare several to thousands for iTunes or Google Play) so I downloaded a few and started testing out what I could do with this neat little device.  The games were fun, and the New York Times app was a neat idea.  But what I really wanted was operating system control.  I wanted to swipe through screens, scroll with my finger, select apps with a flick of the finger.  Luckily there was an app for that called BetterTouchTool and from the reviews it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It gave you complete control over which gestures did what, and brought the Leap Motion closer to the 'Minority Report" experience.  Only one problem: it was a Mac app and there were no plans to port it to Windows. I would have to wait for a developer to come up with a Windows version. Fortunately I wouldn’t have to wait long.

I watched the AirPlay app store.  Apps began to trickle and music apps mostly.  Something new every day, and some of them were pretty cool.  Kyoto is my favorite. It serves no practical purpose but grabbing shooting stars out of the air and waving your hand through a virtual tree is mesmerizing...I could do that all day.  Finally it came; a new app hit the app store called GameWAVE.  It was designed for PC gamers to allow them to use the Leap Motion instead of their keyboard & mouse.  It had endless options for customizing gestures (turning your hand into a gun with a trigger for some games, a steering wheel for others). This all had a byproduct: it gave Leap Motion users exactly what they needed for operating system control.  I downloaded the app, started playing around with the various gesture options, and within a few minutes the shine was back on the apple.  I was swiping through web pages, tapping my finger to make mouse clicks, and even raising and lowering my volume by making circles in the air. 

To the app developer for GameWAVE; my hat is off to you.  The app takes the Leap Motion from “neat idea” to “useful input device”. It even works perfectly in Media Center (or XBMC if that's your preference).  You can pick whatever gestures you want to move through the menus.  I chose tilting my hand. Tilt up to move up the menu, tilt down to move down, put your hand flat to stop.  Move left or right to go through the selections, then tap your finger to pick one.  It feels very natural.  Possibly one downside is that it's SO customizable that it can be daunting to set up.  But even there you're covered because you can go to the GameWAVE page and download preconfigured setup files for various uses.  They have files that set up the controls for Windows, Mac OS, and many different games.  It's also easy to switch between them.

So the Leap Motion combined with the GameWAVE app seems to be a pretty good solution for HTPC control.  It takes some configuring and a bit of practice with the gestures, but once you've got it down it's downright fun.  My only other request would be to somehow (not sure it’s even possible) to make the Leap Motion wireless.  How awesome would it be to set this tiny wireless thing down on your coffee table and start waving your hands around to make things happen? Who do I talk to about that?