The Leap Motion controller may sound like a gadget from the fictional world of Minority Report, but its Airspace store is filled with nearly very-real 100 apps and games aimed at bringing gesture controls to everyday computing. Available for Windows and Mac, the $79.99 Leap Motion peripheral uses two cameras and three infrared LED lights to track your hand’s movements, allowing you to control your laptop with a simple flick of the wrist.
Since the app store is so new, it can be hard to distinguish the smooth and intuitive apps from the buggy applications that still need some work. After perusing through Airspace, here are some must-have apps to help you make the most of your Leap Motion controller.
Sugar Rush ($1.99, Windows and Mac)
Whether or not you’re a fan of Pixar’s “Wreck It Ralph,” “Sugar Rush” is one of the most impressive games we’ve seen for the Leap Motion yet. The cart racer requires you to hold both hands above the Leap Motion as if you’re grasping a virtual steering wheel and tilt from left to right to steer your vehicle. Since the Leap Motion’s gesture controls vary between apps, each game has its own learning curve, but we find Sugar Rush’s to be among the most responsive and intuitive.
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PhotoScape ($1.99, Windows and Mac)
An app like PhotoScape reminds you that the Leap Motion is for so much more than just casual games. PhotoScape allows you to explore various photo feeds on the Web such as Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr through a 3-D gesture-optimized interface. We’re not just talking about scrolling up and down through your feed, however. PhotoScape presents images in a variety of templates, but our favorite one arranges images in a three-dimensional virtual collage that you can explore by pointing and swiping toward the screen. Paired with a dark night sky-themed backdrop, it looks as if you’re navigating through a universe of photos.
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Touchless for Windows and Mac (Free, Windows and Mac)
Just likes its name implies, these apps let you navigate your laptop using gesture controls. The two separate apps, Touchless for Windows and Touchless for Mac, run in your notebook’s system tray and can be enabled by right-clicking the corresponding icon. We preferred Touchless for Windows simply because the Windows 8 interface is better optimized for gesture controls, but both apps were equally responsive.
NYTimes for Leap Motion (Free, Windows and Mac)
The New York Times app for the Leap Motion turns your desktop into a full-screen news hub. With a wave of your hand, you can browse through the Times’ top stories for the day without worrying out a pay wall. Twirling your fingertip lets you scroll up or down when reading a story, which can be dismissed by shaking your hand. The New York Times app demonstrates the potential for reader apps when it comes to gesture controls. We loved the easy-to-navigate interface and the way articles popped forward after selecting them.
More: 5 Best News Apps
The Power of Minus Ten ($0.99, Windows and Mac)
Science geeks are sure to love this one. The Power of Minus Ten lets you dive into the human body using dynamic 3D-based gesture controls. Pointing your finger toward the screen plunges you forward into the human body, letting you explore cells in the skin and their components. Pointing at a certain component will pull up information about that specific part, and pulling your hand away from the computer will let you zoom out once again. We were impressed with the captivating science and education apps available for the Leap Motion, and the Power of Minus Ten is certainly among the best.
Cut the Rope (Free, Windows and Mac)
If you thought playing “Cut the Rope” on your smartphone was fun, trying solving those puzzles with just a swipe of your finger. The game is by far one of the most responsive apps available for the Leap Motion, and the experience truly translates to the larger screen. You can now play one of the world's top casual games, Cut the Rope, using gesture controls alone. Using slight movements, we pointed at areas on the screen with our index finger to navigate the screen and made unexaggerated slashing motions to cute the ropes. The app ran smoothly and wasn’t sluggish at all during our testing, which is a marked improvement from some other apps in Leap Motion’s burgeoning Airspace Store.
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Corel Painter Freestyle (Free, Windows)
This app utilizes the Leap Motion as a painting and drawing tool, allowing you to create hand-drawn images by tracing with your finger in front of the screen. Corel Freestyle Painter isn’t as complicated to use as apps that are targeted specifically at artists, such as the less intuitive Deco Sketch, but still comes with enough features to get creative. The Leap Motion supports 10-finger gesture controls, allowing us to create drawings using multiple fingers at one time. With Corel Painter Freestyle, you can choose to sketch your own works from scratch or upload an existing image to make modifications.
More: Best Photo-Editing Apps
Frog Dissection ($3.99, Windows and Mac)
As the name implies, Frog Dissection lets you virtually dissect a frog with step-by-step instructions to simulate the laboratory experience. Like “Cut the Rope,” Frog Dissection is one of the more polished Airspace apps with extremely responsive gesture controls. In addition to tearing open a virtual frog, the app also lets you explore the specimen’s internal organs in a 3D panoramic view by swirling your hand. It may not be the most practicalapp for everyday use, but Frog Dissection lands in our top picks for its well-designed interface, reactive motion controls and ability to showcase the educational potential of a device like the Leap Motion.
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Unlock (Free, Windows)
This almost seems like a no-brainer when it comes to gesture controls. Unlock allows you to wave your hand over the Leap Motion to gain access to your computer rather than having to type in a tangible password. When setting up the app, Unlock requires you to perform a variety of different gestures and take a number of hand positions so it can create a detailed map of your fingerprints. During our testing, our Windows 8 notebook unlocked immediately after scanning our hand, but rejected a coworker that tried to log on to the device.
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Beautiful Chaos (($1.99, Mac)
Beautiful Chaos is one of the best visualize apps for the Leap Motion controller, allowing you to manipulate colorful entities on screen with both hands. One hand is used to control the colored clouds while the other rotates the camera, taking full advantage of the Leap Motion’s dual cameras. We enjoyed watching colors blend together on screen as we moved our hand from side to side, especially when using full screen mode and hiding the mouse cursor and parameter icons.