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Microsoft Kinect Gets Smoked by New Technology

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It started almost a decade ago as science fiction in 20th Century Fox's (NWS) blockbuster film Minority Report. Then it went on to premiere as a landmark innovation at the TED2010 conference. This December it arrives as consumer technology. That's right: Humans and computers are about to get much, much closer. 

Accorrding to CNET, a new innovation in hands-free motion control technology is set to revolutionize how we interact with computers. It's called Leap, and, well, it's insanely cool, and a total game-changer.

"Hands-free" might be misleading when describing the new piece of hardware, which is no bigger than your run-of-the-mill USB drive and syncs with any computer wirelessly. Using your hands is sort of the whole point when it comes to Leap. Coordinating with high-tech motion capture software, the device allows users to control what’s on their computer screens with nothing more than thier five-fingered mitts. 

Sound familiar? Sure it does. The technology was first popularized by the Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) Wii before being reimagined by Microsoft (MSFT) for its Xbox Kinect. The motion sensing controller earned a Guinness World Record back in 2010 as the “Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device” of all time. Any one of the 18 million units sold by January 2012 has allowed video gamers world wide to replace classic button smashing with active, full body engagement.

But that’s old-hat tech. There’s nothing quite like Leap, whose creators at the San Fransico based startup Leap Motion say "is 200 times more sensitive than anything else on the market.” The device creates an area of four cubic-feet in which the user's hands engage a computer in 3-dimensional space. No mouse. No keyboard. Just a direct connection between the user and screen.

It’s next-generation technology at its finest, and something you really have to see to believe:

Pretty stunning, isn’t it?

A quick browse through Leap Motion's website reveals it has support from a handful of very influential backers: the venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners, which has “invested in over 225 seed, early and growth stage companies” since its inception in 1988, including LuluLemon Athletica (LULU), Vistaprint (VPRT) and Map Quest -- now owned by AOL (AOL); Founders Fund, a venture capital firm whose managing partners include Facebook (FB) founding president Sean Parker; Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm whose notable investments include Groupon (GRPN);  the venture capital firm SOSventures International; Brian McClendon, a VP of Engineering at Google (GOOG) who oversees Google Maps and related projects; Bill Warner, who has started two tech-companies, Avid Technology (AVID) and Wildfire Communications.

What sets the Leap apart from its predecessors (besides the advances in imaging and processing power) is an open application policy for third-party app developers.

Highland Capital's CEO Michael Buckwald explains to CNET, “Think what would have happened if the mouse had initially been released as a closed technology." Adding, "The impact would have been a tiny, tiny percentage of what the impact was because it was an open system that anyone could develop for."

There are over 1,000 developer inquiries already filed, and that number is expected to skyrocket. Leap Motion plans to issue “between 15,000 to 20,000 free developer kits” to developers in industries that are certain to never be the same again. Imagine the applications for medicine, engineering and architecture, teaching, and design.

This is a product and an advance that everybody should be keeping an eye on. With a $70 price tag, the device is primed for adoption by the masses. I’ve already pre-ordered mine.

What’s stopping you?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.