Can 3-D Motion Controls Save The PC? HP Thinks So


Hewlett-Packard is banking on motion controls to help resuscitate the slumping PC business.

Gesture-control company Leap Motion announced Tuesday that it has teamed with HP to bring 3-D motion controls to specific HP products. Neither company has said which specific products will be part of the collaboration, but the announcement from Leap Motion refers to "devices," so the partnership may include non-PC products.

Leap Motion says the partnership will start by bundling select HP products with the Leap Motion Controller hardware, which is a smaller, 3-inch device that connects to a computer via USB cable and sits on a user's desk and interprets physical gestures as commands. The controller can track movement of both hands and all 10 fingers of a user with up to 1/100th mm of accuracy and no visible latency, according to Leap Motion.

[Related: PCs Suffer Steepest Quarterly Decline Ever: IDC ]

HP declined to comment on specific product information for Leap Motion-enabled devices but did say the first hardware bundle will be available sometime this summer.

HP products bundled with the Leap Motion Controller will also come pre-loaded with Leap Motion’s application store, dubbed Airspace. According to Leap Motion, Airspace is schedule to officially launch in May and will include productivity, design, social networking and education apps as well as games, music and entertainment.

Following the bundled products, Leap Motion said the partnership will "evolve" to include unique HP products with embedded Leap Motion technology.

Like other PC-focused companies, HP has experienced a decline in desktop and notebook shipments. According to IDC's recent first-quarter PC report, HP saw a 23.7 percent drop year-over-year in worldwide PC shipments.

Other companies besides HP have expressed interest in motion controls as an innovation that can help make PCs more attractive; Intel, for example, is planning on adding gesture-control technology to new Ultrabooks sometime in the near future.

"Customers want to go to the next level when creating and interacting with digital content," said Ron Coughlin, HP's senior vice president and general manager of Consumer PCs, in a press statement. "Leap Motion’s groundbreaking 3-D motion control combined with HP technology and amazing developer apps will create incredible user experiences."

Mike Curtis, vice president of Virtual Technologies Group in Toledo, Ohio, said motion-control technology in PCs will most likely appeal to consumers but said there is potential for it in certain vertical industries. "From a presentation perspective, I can see some business applications of motion controls in areas like education," Curtis said.

The Leap Motion Controller is available to pre-order as a stand-alone product for $79.99.

PUBLISHED APRIL 16, 2013