Leap Motion’s Interaction Engine Beta Can Make Virtual Hands More Useful

by Jamie Feltham • August 23rd, 2016

Controller-free hand-tracking company Leap Motion is preparing for the day we ditch our position-tracked controllers with its new Interaction Engine, which is launching as an Early Access Beta today.

This promising new concept aims to refine interaction with hand-tracked controls and is now available as a Unity module. Leap announced the launch in a new blog post that goes into detail about what the Interaction Engine means for hand-tracked controls.

throw

The new tools essentially make something of a compromise in terms of believeability of interactions in favor of the ease of actually performing them. With previous iterations of Leap controls, for example, you might struggle with the physical action of holding a virtual object, as anything but a precise and definitive movement might cause the item in question to squeeze out of your grip.

With the Interaction Engine in place, the user’s hand would actually be able to phase into an item without causing it to shoot off, and then establish a firm hold on it from within. You can see it at work in some of the GIFs Leap recently provided; it might not look realistic, but the payoff in actually being able to manipulate objects without awkward issues may be worth it for many more delicate actions.

on-pickup

The system is essentially implementing a new set of rules for hand physics, detecting when an object is being grasped and how that object should behave in the way that it has been picked up.

You can try the system out for yourself with an early tech demo named Interaction Engine 101, which has now been posted on GitHub. Of course you’ll actually need your own Leap Motion sensor to use it, and a mount to stick it on the front of your VR headset of choice is a good idea too.

It’s important to note it’s far for the final iteration, and much of its future is in the hands (sorry) of developers themselves. Leap is allowing for a wide degree of customization in the controls letting developers tailor the physics system to specific objects. You’ll be able to alter how items behave when thrown, for example, to ensure realistic results that your players won’t struggle with.

It’s a positive step forward for the future of hand-tracking in VR. Oculus Touch, the Vive wands and PlayStation Move are going to be here for years, but Oculus’ own acquisition of companies like Pebbles and Nimble prove that this tech’s time is coming. When it does arrive, it sounds like Leap Motion will be ready.

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