It's been almost three years since Leap Motion started shipping its motion controller. Even as the first units shipped, readers here and elsewhere thought that the Leap's hand-tracking was a natural fit for interacting with virtual reality. Yesterday, Leap released the beta version of Orion, a "part hardware, part software" set of improvements to the system specifically designed to complement this year's upcoming VR headsets.
Leap claims to have made most of the improvements through software. Owners of Leap Motion controllers can download the Orion beta and, according to Leap, experience lower latency, longer range, and improved hand recognition, even against cluttered backgrounds.
The beta also comes with new demos. In the Blocks demo, users can create and manipulate a variety of shapes using what appears to be a fairly intuitive set of gestures. According to Leap, its new new interaction engine gives users fine control over stacking, bumping, and throwing virtual objects.
Part of the challenge for Leap in the coming year is to develop partnerships with the major VR headset manufacturers. Details are slim, of course, but Leap indicates that they're working to embed Orion into VR headsets. Considering that both Oculus and HTC have invested heavily into their own controllers, it'll be interesting to see who (if anyone) wants to add in support for the Leap.