Apps & Mobile

Leap Motion’s New Motion Sensor Expands Music Control

Hands-313x223By Eliot Van Buskirk of

Leap Motion released an $80 motion sensor on Monday, which works with Mac and Windows. On launch day, Leap’s Airspace app store had 14 music apps for doing silly things like punching notes as they fly out of a song, or more serious things like playing the piano, harp, or drums in thin air.

We predict that developers will find other musical uses for Leap that the average music fan can appreciate; the possibilities for navigating music libraries in three dimensions seems particularly attractive (maybe it’ll even let those of us who remember use our special two-fingered vinyl-flipping technique, honed through years of digging through crates).

Someone has already figured out how to make Leap control Spotify, and we expect further apps to follow — especially if Leap Motion makes it into laptops, as some expect it to. It sure would be easier to swipe a hand in the air to skip a song than to remember which window it’s playing in.

However, the first popular uses for Leap are likely to be for making music, not navigating or playing it, because the gearheads are going to snap this thing up before music fans do. We just heard about an as-yet-unnamed app and VST plugin, from Aaron Leese of Stagecraft Software, still in prototype form, which lets Leap Motion owners reach out and touch sound. Sort of.

This technology promises to let DJs, producers, hobbyists, and fans-of-interesting-things sculpt and shape EQ patterns, delay filters, and other elements, by moving their hands in the air and the song. It also lets you see what you’re doing to the sound, creating the illusion that you’re actually touching music:

The astute reader might protest: haven’t DJ rigs, Grooveboxes, and other music-making gizmos been able to sense hand motions for, like, ever?

Yes. The difference is that Leap Motion detects a lot more than just the distance of your hand from a specific point on a device.

Leese explains,

First of all, very few, if any, of the existing mid-air style controllers have more than one dimension (most are a single infrared detector that gives one variable, distance, as a MIDI signal). While that is pretty cool, it’s not the same level of control. Also, the ones I have seen are mostly used to control one single, simple variable effect. Pretty cool, but it would be better to be able to use it like a theremin (control an instrument, that is).

Eventually, I plan to make a simple plugin that lets you map the three dimensions to any of the parameters on any plugin (instrument or effect). I also plan to bundle a number of my own effects this way, of course.

Another product in the works is a basic Theremin, but with a synth with a number of voices. Planning on calling that one the “There-e-thing”, since you can make it sound like a trumpet, or piano, or helicopter, or whatever.

I do plan on integrating this feature it into my other products also.

We’re looking forward to checking this out — and to what else Leap Motion and its inevitable competitors will bring to digital music.


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