Leap Motion Shares Two Enthralling, Unreleased Demos of Its VR Tech

"Everything that I really love, I can't show you."


David Holz, the co-founder and CTO of Leap Motion (an exciting company that’s astounding us and thereby earning its keep), spoke at Vision Summit 2016 in early February. Video of his lecture found its way onto the internet on Monday. Not only is it an impressive lecture, but Holz shared some never-before-seen demos of some Leap Motion projects.

Those projects include virtual, wearable interfaces that incorporate and enhance your familiar device’s capabilities and apps into virtual reality. “This’ll be another thing that no one’s seen, and that not will be available … yet,” Holz said.

Holz envisions three levels of interfaces: one immediate level, on your hand or your arm, that you can summon at will; another level that’s “more of a launcher-type” that allows you to do more complex tasks; and a third level that’s “more of, like, an environment” or a virtual home office in which you could achieve even more complex tasks.

Check it out (jump to 42:55, the good stuff is always at the end):

But the entire lecture (if, for some reason, you have 45 minutes to spare and want to really geek out on the future and VR) is worth watching. Holz discusses the future of VR and AR — “the progress is going to be more limited by humans than by technology,” he says — and what he thinks it’ll mean to us as human beings.

Some highlights:

Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality Headsets

  • AR headsets will soon be like Google Glass, only quality and (perhaps) more stylish.
  • “There’s no reason [in the future] for screens to be opaque. The only reason screens are opaque is that no one wants to pay for a transparent phone.”
  • In the 2017-2022 range, these headsets will be able to provide selective transparency, even selective down to individual pixels.
  • In fact, both selective transparency and selective focus already exist at prototype levels, “but I can’t name names,” Holz says.
  • Beyond that, we’ll see retinal projection, “which means I’m just going to, like, shoot a laser beam directly into your eyeball and, like, draw an image there…” which, Holz promises, is “not as scary as it sounds.”

Children of the Future Will Be Weird

  • As children become accustomed to VR and AR, as the technology improves, and as education comes up to speed, our children will understand scientific phenomena on an unprecedentedly experiential and intuitive level. Holz provides an example: When kids have smashed two galaxies together in virtual reality enough times, it’ll be almost second nature. Holz thinks that the intuition kids currently have for soccer balls colliding will give way to the same intuition for galaxies colliding.
  • “Maybe we won’t all have to deal with it — maybe I’ll be old by then — but the kids are going to get weird,” he says.

Tiny Sensors Will Make VR Outrageous

  • Tracking sensors — the tech that tells the VR world where your hands and body and etc. are — will be tiny. We’re talking three-millimeter cubes. And they’ll be cheap, meaning they can be numerous, and they can be anywhere. Theoretically, this could allow you to see through walls and have virtual out-of-body-experiences, Holz says.

Developing Realistic “Reality”

  • Holz identifies an early challenge of VR: World building. He says it’s less about graphic design and more about industrial design; architecture, almost. “You wanna usually make physical interfaces, not abstract interfaces — and even that step is kind of unintuitive.”
  • Interfaces should be there when you want them but not there when you don’t want them.
  • If you do VR just right you can almost feel virtual objects when you reach out to touch them.- Holz on feeling things, even within VR worlds: “There’s things like phased array ultrasound, which allows you to beamform ultrasonic waves, and you focus it on the person’s hand and it flicks and you can feel it, which is totally weird.”- Texture and force (e.g. pushing on a wall as it resists your pressure) may never find their ways into VR worlds.

A look at a virtual, wearable interface prototype.