After unveiling its Kinect-like gesture control system for PCs in mid-2012, Leap Motion is a promising product that's not available to buy just yet, but that's set to change this year. This morning, Leap Motion announced a new partnership with Asus, which will see it bundle its motion control technology with select notebooks and desktops shipping later this year, including the All-in-One PCs and high-end notebooks.
"We're at 100% capacity in the factory right now."
Leap Motion is still making motion control units for you to pre-order — but as of today, there's a new way for you to buy one bundled with a laptop, and down the road, maybe with a tablet or a smartphone too. The Leap Motion app store will also come pre-installed on any computer with a module, and since Asus will be shipping internationally, it also marks Leap's unofficial international debut.
That's a lot of hardware, especially for a company that has yet to ship their first consumer order, so they've also raised $30 million in Series B funding, entirely from existing investors, to scale up production. Leap has already shipped 12,000 units to developers, but more than half of those were pre-sale models, shipped without a finished enclosure. The final numbers on the new production run are still undetermined, but CEO Michael Buckwald expects it to number in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly into the millions, to be split between pre-orders, the Asus order and other OEM deals yet to be announced. On the high end, that would be nearly a hundred times the number of modules currently in circulation. "We're at 100 percent capacity in the factory right now," he told The Verge.
The current Leap unit is low-impact enough to run on a smartphone processor
That volume gives Leap a huge advantage on both sides of the adoption puzzle. For developers, it means a built-in audience for anything that makes it into the app store, which is a promise few platforms this young can make. At the same time, a pool of motivated developers means Leap should have more and better apps on their app store when it launches later this year, which in turn makes consumers more likely to buy it. It’s the cycle every new platform hopes to achieve — and in this case, having a hardware company sign on early is a big step in the right direction.
To hear Buckwald tell it, this is just the first OEM deal of many, including potential integration into tablet and even automotive systems. He was coy on the specifics, but he did note that the current Leap unit is low-impact enough to run on the same ARM processors found in most smartphones. "One of the great things about the Leap is, it's very small," Buckwald said. "As of this moment, there are Leap models that can fit almost any consumer product." Microsoft may have been the first to bring this type of gesture control to the masses in the Xbox gaming world, but it's Leap Motion that will be providing it on Redmond's PC home turf.