In the physical world, our hands exert force onto other objects. By grasping objects, they exert force through fingers and palms (using precision, power, or scissors grips), and the objects push back. Gravity can also help us hold items in the palms of our hands.

In the frictionless space of the virtual, anything can happen. Gravity is optional. Magic is… Click To TweetBut not in the digital world! In the frictionless space of the virtual, anything can happen. Gravity is optional. Magic is feasible. Our hands are no longer merely hands, limited by real-world forces and capabilities. It’s an interactive fiction where our hands can have superpowers – like Magneto levitating magnetic balls, Iron Man shooting repulsor beams from his palms, and Princess Elsa making snowflakes with a wave of her hand.

But building these superpowers in a different universe with different rules is also a challenge. We’re used to mass and gravity and friction, so a world without them can feel limited and strange. Just as physics engines like Unity3D come prepackaged with artificial gravity that you can play with and subvert, we need to be able to play with the unspoken rules of hands – grabbing, throwing, pinching, passing back and forth.

How can we take advantage of the increased bandwidth between people and technology to make something amazing? Click To TweetThe newly released Leap Motion Interaction Engine is the beginning of a toolkit built to support developers working with physics-based interactions. This can be used to create realistic interactions – just grab something without thinking – or it can give you telekinetic powers.

Developers can use the interaction engine to define how to manipulate objects. One particularly exciting option is scaling an object when it’s grasped by both hands – to tweak and snap together 3D puzzles, steer a car as the wheel dynamically expands and contracts, or even build a virtual world like the nameless man in Bruce Branit’s 2009 short film World Builder:

Building up high-level interactions also brings us back to essential questions. How we would want to control our computers with just our hands? How can we take advantage of the increased bandwidth between people and technology to make something amazing? How can we make impossible things possible – and fun? That’s the next step.

Image courtesy of CBS and Paramount

Nancy is a Leap Motion UX designer. She believes that well-designed digital experiences can make everyone feel like superheroes.

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