HP to build Leap Motion into PCs

Motion controller system from Leap Motion will ship with HP devcies

16 Apr 2013

HP will embed Leap Motion's gesture tracking into its PCs, the company announced.

Leap Motion, a three-year-old firm with less than 100 employees in San Francisco, manufactures sensor units about the size of a pack of gum, which it claims can track the individual movements of ten fingers with 1/100th of a millimeter precision.

The units can plug into any computer and allow the use of apps or software designed for motion-control sensors.

Under the new deal, HP will initially ship Leap Motion's sensors with its products before eventually embedding the technology directly into HP computers, the companies said.

This is great validation for motion-control technology

The sensors are on sale at major retailers for $80 but will not ship until 13 May. The companies did not say when the HP devices with built-in sensors would be sold. It also didn't say which form factors would feature the technology, describing them as "unique HP devices".

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

The agreement comes at a time when tech manufacturers like Microsoft, Google and Apple have all expressed interest in motion-sensing technology. In 2010, Microsoft brought the technology to millions of living rooms with Kinect. Last year, Samsung unveiled a television set that could be controlled from across the room with hand gestures.

Andy Miller, Leap Motion's chief operating officer and a former Apple executive, said the motion technology could both enhance recreational uses such as gaming and be a practical tool for business professionals.

In order to show off its wide appeal, Leap Motion has invited third-party developers to make apps in a model similar to Apple's App Store. So far, 50,000 developers have submitted niche apps that use gestures to create 3D models, simulate musical instruments or even manipulate surgical robots.

Leap forward

But Miller hoped that the HP deal could pave the way for gesture-based control in daily, mainstream computing. The next step was to embed the technology into tablets and mobile devices, he said.

"This is great validation for motion-control technology," Miller said. "Going forward you're going to see this embedded in a whole range of devices."

Even if it is introduced only in a limited number of models, the new technology could infuse some much-needed cool into HP, which is in the midst of the multi-year restructuring and has been struggling to stem the decline in personal computers as smartphones and tablets surge in popularity.

The company's consumer PC sales, particularly, have been hurt severely.

HP saw a 24% decline in PC sales in the first three months of the year but just managed to hold on to its title of top global PC supplier, with 15.7% market share, according to research firm IDC.

Overall, PC sales slipped 14% during the period, the biggest decline in two decades of keeping records, IDC said.

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