Leap Motion Releases Major Tracking Update and New Demos to Show It Off


Leap Motion builds the leading markerless hand-tracking technology, and today the company revealed a update which they claim brings major improvements “across the board.” The upgraded tracking and improved developer tools are available in beta today on Windows, alongside three new demos to try it out for yourself.

Founded in 2010, Leap Motion released its initial product (today called the ‘Leap Motion Controller‘) in 2012, a desktop-focused peripheral which offered markerless hand-tracking. Though an interesting and functional device, the Leap Motion Controller had trouble finding a niche—seemingly a solution in search of a problem as far as desktop input was concerned. As virtual reality began to heat up, it became clear that there were major opportunities for novel input in the sector, and over time Leap Motion has pivoted its focus from desktop to VR, offering a bespoke mount to allow developers to attach the device to VR headsets for hand-tracking in VR experiences.

Updated Tracking

While Leap Motion hasn’t publicly released new hardware since the original 2012 device (lately focusing instead on building newer hardware into future VR and AR headsets), the company is adamant that their ‘secret sauce’ is actually in their software—which is why they’ve been able to significantly improve the unit’s hand-tracking performance over time, like when they introduced the ‘Orion’ update back in 2016.

Image courtesy Leap Motion

Having announced a $50 million Series C investment last year, the company today says its hand-tracking tech is taking another big step forward with a major update to Orion. The company notes the following improvements in what they’re calling the “fourth generation of our core software”:

  • Better finger dexterity and fidelity
  • Significantly smoother hand and finger tracking, with motions that look and feel more natural
  • Faster and more consistent hand initialization
  • Better hand pose stability and reliability
  • Improved tracking fidelity against complex backgrounds and extreme lighting
  • More accurate shape and scale for hands

New Demos

Along with the updated Leap Motion tracking software, the company is releasing three demo applications: Paint, where you can use a pinching gesture and pallet to draw; Particles, where you can play with lots of simulated particles; and Cat Explorer, where you’ll dissect a cartoon cat that’s entirely too cute to deserve such treatment.

Improved Developer Tools

Along with the updates to their tracking technology, Leap Motion is also releasing improvements to their developer tools, including newly updated Unity and Unreal Engine integrations, and deprecating some older APIs. The company details the developer-level changes on their blog here.

Disclosure: Leap Motion’s Barrett Fox and Martin Schubert have recently published a series of guest articles on Road to VR highlight their experiments in AR/VR interface design. The latest piece is here: Validating an Experimental Shortcut Interface with Flaming Arrows & Paper Planes

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Jan Ciger

    Well, no matter what Leap does with their SDK, unless they actually release new hardware with a wider stereo base (the hw is just two IR smartphone camera modules + IR LEDs packaged in a box with a bit of USB interface electronics), the device will be of very limited use. The very short stereo base is the direct cause for the tiny working volume where one can barely fit both hands in the field of view and attempting to do anything bimanual is next to impossible.

    And when the device is mounted on the HMD, it feels like the archetypal myopic professor who has mislaid his glasses – the tracking works only right in front of one’s nose, working at a more natural distance is not possible because of the small working volume of the device.

    We have two of these at work and both are sitting in a box because there is no meaningful use for them.

    • Joe

      In the Tested review of the Pimax 8K, the Leap Hand Motion module built specifically to fit that headset supposedly worked MUCH better than a standard module.

      Tested – “Field of view was very good. Far and away beyond what you get with a a standard module. With their scanner (Pimax), it went to your periphery.”

      So it sounds like there have been improvements in the capture range of the hand tracking.

    • benz145

      The company has better hardware, they just don’t plan on pushing it out as a standalone device to consumers. They’re focusing on getting the tech built into headsets instead of selling it as an accessory.


    • dk

      lol they have said multiple times that they r a software company at this point….the idea is selling their software to others and they can use whatever sensors they want ……the software is the magic sauce
      the old big update—>

    • Johnatan Blogins

      I think you should take those devices out of their dusty boxes and give Orion 4 a try, I was positively impressed.. have a fairly large nose, and even still, could easily go much further than that, had some good fun throwing airplanes earlier, looking forward to trying the in-engine demos…

  • Get Schwifty!

    And Vive lumbers on with it’s crappy wands….

    • JJ

      the leap motion mount works with all the vr headsets. Vive/Rift/ Windows it doesn’t matter so your statement is pretty ignorant.

  • impurekind

    Kinda unintentionally horrifying. :-o

  • Lucidfeuer

    I think it’s a very smart idea to keep on iterating, optimising and developing the software-side, since it’s what all hardware rely on.

    But as time passes, relying on the same 6 years old hardware is going to becoming more and more inefficient and irrelevant. Oh and that stupid AR headset project when they could already have produced, iterated and even sold lots of VR headsets….

    • Laurence Nairne

      Biggest market interest is in AR currently (yes I know it will plateau). Don’t really blame a software company for going where the wind blows when they have the ability to prototype stuff like that.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Well that’s the shame, it’ll plateau way quicker than VR (which still has potential for slow or accelerated growth), while all their developing on the hand-tracking and augmented hand interaction will get more and more valuable as they take a lead on developing these.

        It’s a shame they haven’t pushed for their reference-design integration of Leapmo on VR headsets or a new micro-Leapmo that can accomodate headsets, laptops, screens or even smartphones…

        • Laurence Nairne

          They’re still invested in pushing for leap motion being used in VR. There’s a good point in there as to why more manufacturers haven’t integrated their latest module though. Maybe their license fee expectations are too grand….

  • CoffeeBuzz

    Any word on 360 camera tracking updates ? Would love this if you could still track hands at your sides and behind you

  • that Cat demo is fantastic. Imagine that in schools teach anatomy. Frogs rejoice. .