The gesture interface company Leap Motion announces an ambitious plan, but still very early, for an augmented reality platform based on its hand-tracking system. The system is called Project North Star and includes a design for a headset that according to Leap Motion costs less than $ 100 in large-scale production. The headphones would be equipped with a Leap Motion sensor, so users could manipulate objects with their hands with precision, something that the company has previously offered for desktop screens and virtual reality.
Project North Star is not a new consumer headset, and Leap Motion will not sell a version to developers at this time either. Instead, the company will release the necessary hardware and software specifications under an open source license next week. "We hope these designs will inspire a new generation of experimental AR systems that will change the conversation from what an AR system should be to what should look like an AR experience," the company writes.
The design of the headphones uses two 3.5-inch LCD screens that cool quickly with a resolution of 1600×1440 per eye. The screens reflect their light in a visor that the user perceives as a transparent overlay. Leap Motion says that this offers a field of vision of 95 degrees of height and 70 degrees of width, larger than most of the AR systems that exist today. The Leap Motion sensor is placed over the eyes and tracks the movement of the hand through a much wider field of view, about 180 degrees horizontally and vertically.
Leap Motion emphasized to The Verge that it is not a headphone company, and it was said before that it is mainly interested in the software running on as many systems as possible. You can now paste a Leap Motion sensor into a HoloLens mixed-reality helmet, adding more sophisticated manual tracking to existing hardware.
While Leap Motion is mentioning an impressive price and field of vision, Project North Star is not (as far as we can see) aimed at one-up headphones like HoloLens and Magic Leap. It is supposed to offer excellent manual interactions, but not advanced tracking at room scale, interaction with your environment or an independent design. The design could be useful for small players who want to experiment with augmented reality hardware, while requiring relatively little Leap Motion investment.
Hand tracking is an obvious feature for augmented reality and mixed headsets, and companies like Microsoft, Magic Leap and Meta have expressed interest in it. But we have not seen an earphone throwing all its weight behind systems like Leap Motion, which articulate each finger separately and aim to reproduce the physics of lifting and moving objects. Although we have not tested the headphones, Leap Motion's vice president of design, Keiichi Matsuda, has published some of the very first very interesting videos filmed through a prototype, which include demonstrations of the handling of a holographic cube and a virtual screen for the wrist .