The magic of Leap Motion comes in the software, but the hardware that delivers our technology has been in development for two years.
I joined Leap Motion (then a company called Ocuspec) in August 2011 as an industrial designer — and employee #6. Co-founders David and Michael could have given an outside agency specs and had them come back with a product, but instead they approached the hardware design collaboratively.
Here we are, two years later. We’ve produced 600,000 devices and they’re heading to warehouses around the world. I wanted to share some of the steps and design decisions we went through to create the final Leap Motion Controller.
In the summer of 2011, we figured out how to harness Leap Motion’s technology and squeeze it into a box that could rest in the palm of your hand. Before that, Michael and David used to spend about 30 minutes setting up various components for demonstrations. The first prototype – the big white box – was actually constructed with a few hand cut pieces of plastic and some super glue.
In September 2011, we laser-cut some acrylic and assembled it into a sleek and “mysterious” black box. The sharp corners gave it a more unconventional and raw look to the device.
Two months later – after many conversations about making the Leap Motion Controller feel more inviting and harmonious with current consumer electronic products – the ‘infinity shape’ gave us our first vision of what would become the final design. The black plastic enclosure still lent an air of mystery, and we even flirted with device names like “enigma.”
As we priced materials, we determined a clear anodized aluminum shell would increase the quality, durability and presence of the controller.
By April 2012 we were manufacturing – by hand – a small batch of developer units that were used during demonstrations. At the same time, we worked on shrinking the PCB board and overall height of the camera lenses. We finally found a manufacturer who would agree to bring our final product to life. We worked with their engineering team to define the Leap Motion Controller’s final dimensions: 3 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1⁄2 inch thick.
We designed the lime green indicator light as a subtle color accent and focal point, giving life to the product. A black rubber pad on the bottom not only gave grip and stability to the device, but was used as symmetrical design cue to the black high gloss top surface. We put a lot of focus on the fit, finish and build quality, working on over 10 iterations with the manufacturer to fine-tune the final consumer product.
With such a minimal aesthetic, it was incredibly important to polish every detail to really make the design sing.