Through the Interface: Integrating Leap Motion and AutoCAD: Introduction

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January 14, 2013

Integrating Leap Motion and AutoCAD: Introduction

Leap Motion LogoI’ve been alluding somewhat vaguely (and sometimes more specifically) to an interesting integration project I’ve been working on recently. The project is to integrate the Leap Motion controller into AutoCAD, to explore the possibilities of this device.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard about the Leap Motion controller, this could well be the hottest tech gadget of 2013. At last week’s CES, the BBC interviewed Avinash Dabir from Leap Motion to understand the potential for the device and a little about how the technology works. And here’s a very quick demo video:

So what could this mean for CAD? As stated in the “Our History” section of the Leap Motion Story page:

“The original inspiration behind Leap Motion came from our frustration with 3D modeling.”

Which I’m sure you’ll agree is likely to make this technology all the more relevant and interesting for our industry. :-)

This series of blog posts is focused on integrating Leap Motion into AutoCAD. In the next post we’ll look at how to define some basic gestures for model navigation in both 2D and 3D and move on to approaches for actual modeling, whether a generic or more specific integration (looking at the pros and cons of each).

Firstly, though, a quick comment on driving software via hand gestures. Regular readers will hopefully recognise that I’m all for exploring new UI paradigms – I’ve had a lot of fun fooling around with Kinect and AutoCAD, for instance – but I have to admit that I’m far from being sold on the idea of using gestures as a sole input mechanism. It might be compelling for casual input – perhaps to a large, shared display or in due course to a mobile device – but I’ve personally found it very tiring to use hand gestures for any length of time.

I do think, though, that having a device such as the Leap Motion controller available while working with more traditional UI devices (a mouse and keyboard, for instance) could be interesting: you might wave your hand to perform a quick view change, for instance, while you’re drafting or modeling with your existing set-up.

That said, who knows where this style of interaction will lead, longer-term: I suspect our generation of knowledge workers is likely to be pitied for having had to suffer for decades from using technology that was not designed with ergonomics as a priority. It could well be that this type of device ultimately helps set us free.

That’s it for the quick preamble… in the next post we’ll take a first look at integrating Leap Motion into AutoCAD, implementing some basic model navigation gestures.

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