Leap Motion Controller is a tiny device that we’ve been itching to play with since we saw the first promotional videos. This was because it seemed to offer low-latency, hands-free control that could really benefit those in the studio or onstage.
The device can detect between your left and right hands, X, Y and Z movements, tilting of your wrist, finger movements and more. For detection it effectively creates an invisible half-sphere on your desktop for you to interact with.
The unit plugs in via USB and, after the Leap Motion software is installed, you can visit the Airspace app store and explore what’s on offer. There are plenty of cool apps available but we’ll focus on those that might benefit your music-making. Many apps in the music category are little more than toys – which we soon realised within a minute or so – but one app that is causing a stir is Geco MIDI ($9.99), which enables you to set a custom MIDI CC output for any of the available hand movements and gestures.
After watching a few tutorial videos it is easy to grasp how Geco MIDI works. A solo button per assignment can be used so you output only one MIDI CC as you try to assign it to a parameter in your MIDI-mappable software or device. This is a great feature and avoids a lot of potential misfiring of other CC messages.
As with all new technologies, controlling Leap Motion takes practice. We soon learned that it’s best to keep a body-width’s distance between your left and right hands so they don’t falsely trigger each other’s assignments. After 20 minutes or so of having your arms held out you do start to feel some muscle-burn in your shoulders, so there are the physical demands to get used to as well. However, we managed to set up interesting expressive setups such as filter cutoff via the left hand and saturation via the right.
The response time of Leap Motion is impressive and is always the make-or-break aspect of any audio control system. The detection is also quite sensitive, which enabled both slow and controlled or fast and rhythmic detection with a high level of accuracy. With two assignments per hand we could easily control more parameters than is possible using a conventional controller, and with time you may find you can master the control of many more assignments.
Hands-free, multi-gestural control that will augment any studio or live setup for high levels of expression and something visually stimulating for others.