Painting by leaping

Adding my first Airspace app

After getting started with my Leap Motion controller, I proceeded to ‘got’ the free Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ app. The prerequisites listed on the page looked OK, although the page warned that it would need 79mb and ‘more space might be needed’ for .NET 4.0; so this app will make an interesting test of whether .NET 4.5 would meet the dependency.

When I clicked “Get App”, the Airspace store page for Corel Painter® Freestyle™ prompted me for my password, then quickly switched to ‘Purchased’, and my computer got a bit sluggish. For a few minutes, I assumed the app was being downloaded in the background to my laptop.

I did something else for about 15 minutes, but my Airspace home page hadn’t yet refreshed to include a new app button, so it wasn’t clear what was going on. [Based on later experiences with app ‘purchases’, no apps seem to actually download until Airspace is refreshed by exiting and re-launching.] I tried exiting the Airspace page by File|Exit, to no effect. Closing it by clicking the X at top right worked, though.

On restarting Airspace from my desktop shortcut, it detected that my LM sensor wasn’t attached, and offered me the option of continuing with mouse only. Again, this feature probably originated as a convenience for development and testing, but leaving it in for customers is a sign of thoughtful error handling in the design of the software. I selected that option and continued.

My Airspace page now loaded with the 5 previous apps plus my new Painter Freestyle app which began “Downloading …” About 15 minutes later, the download had finished. This seemed quite slow, even given that the app needed about 150 mb for its application files. Then I got a new Dependency page that didn’t tell me exactly what was needed, only asked me to install the “Painter® Freestyle™ Dependencies”. I always like to know what’s inside those boxes before I install them – so for now, I didn’t.

Painting in Airspace

Once I got the Orientation app working (see next story), I was able to launch this app without any difficulty, and without installing any additional prerequisites. It launched pretty fast and ran well (unlike Cut-The-Rope, which still doesn’t run).

Actually painting something with the app clearly takes practice. On my first tries, I found it hard to move to the toolbar above the paint area (to choose a new brush or color) without unintentionally painting. This needs more trial time before I can ‘draw’ any conclusions.

Saving a Painting

Saving my crude paintwork as .RIF (the default) yielded a 2644kb file (for a 1280×800 canvas). Windows, of course, didn’t know how to open it from Explorer. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to open the file from the app and save it as .PNG without using the controller (.JPEG, .TIFF, and .PSD formats are also supported). The PNG file wasn’t much smaller, but saving the JPG as ‘good’ quality or 65% yielded a compact 181kb file; at 80% or ‘high’ quality, the file was 265kb.

I’m not much of a non-digital artist, so I don’t expect to be creating any masterpieces with the app. 🙂 Strictly for the curious, here’s a half-size image of the example:

First try at using Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ with the Leap Motion controller

First try at using Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ with Leap Motion

More adventures to follow …

  1. Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.
  2. Corel®, Freestyle™, and Painter® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Corel Corporation and/or its subsidiaries in Canada, the United States and/or other countries.

Orientation to leaping

Getting Orientation.exe to stop crashing

After getting started with my Leap Motion controller, I had stopped at the point where the Orientation.exe app was crashing. A few days later, I was ready to try again.

Checking for prerequisites

First step: reconfirm prerequisites. As of May 19, 2013, the minimum system requirements were:

  • Windows® 7 or 8 or Mac® OS X 10.7 – Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit) with SP1
  • AMD Phenom™ II or Intel® Core™ i3, i5, i7 processor
  • 2 GB RAM – I have more than 8gb
  • USB 2.0 port – check
  • Internet connection – check

No problems there.

Next I looked in the Airspace Control Panel for software updates, and found one which said it fixed startup issues with Orientation.exe. But still no luck. I checked the support forum and troubleshooting guides and didn’t find anything useful. At this point (on July 29), I set my Leap Motion controller aside to work on other things.

First leap, take two

Absent any replies to my support email requests and twitter pings, I revived my investigation this past weekend (August 4) by considering possible unstated prerequisites. One that came to mind was the “.NET 4.0” that Cut The Rope apparently needs. Maybe Orientation.exe and other apps need it too?

Using Aaron Stebner’s .NET verifier, I confirmed that my prior . NET 4.5 installation did provide a functional version of .NET 4.0 ( both Client and Full).

Next I re-checked for updates (none found), and scanned the troubleshooting pages. Here I found a new Support entry from August 2 on “How to update your graphics driver“. Aha! (Should have thought of that.)

Rather than following their instructions to the letter and trying to figure out exactly which NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M driver I should manually download, I used the Windows “Update Driver” function. That worked beautifully (after about 20 min on a bandwidth-constrained connection). All I had to do after installation was reset the driver configuration to 1280×800 (listed as the minimum by many Leap Motion apps) and full width.

Getting Oriented!

Now Orientation.exe ran beautifully. I actually didn’t expect it to, so I still had my laptop on mute! I grabbed a pair of headphones to plug in and restarted it. It was way too loud at 50% headphone volume level – I reduced it to 15% and went through the app once. (Mute would have been fine. Orientation has no audio or aural instructions, and I found the music kind of annoying – more distracting than inspiring. YMMV.)

In ‘where it sees’ of Orientation, I noticed that the colors of the visualization changed towards orange or red when I made quicker moves – that was cool, and promising.

In ‘what it sees’, I quickly figured out how to get it to recognize both of my hands, and most of the time, all of my fingers. But some simple gestures that I expected to work well didn’t – e.g. gradually closing a thumb and finger into a pinch, or bringing a left finger and right finger together. In both cases, the two fingers would ‘disappear’ soon before the tips actually touched. I have not yet gotten this to work, but will keep experimenting with it.

‘How to draw’ was a good introduction to apps that use depth for ‘touching’ and ‘lifting’ from a surface. I definitely need more runtime on this too, but will probably just experiment with Corel® Painter® Freestyle™ app from now on. Trying to draw something of any complexity in Orientation, only to have the first parts erased, got to be a bit frustrating.

Who’s training who?

My techie husband saw me doing these Orientation experiments and got curious. One of his first questions was, “Are you training it, or is it training you?” It’s a great question. He shares my interest in understanding how well user interface technologies adapt to people, not vice versa. In the long run, technologies that require careful user training are not likely to ‘stick’ or be productive for sporadic use scenarios. (Key architectural quality attributes: learnability, memorability, and operability!) But for purposes of exploring a first version of a new UI technology, I don’t mind being trained a bit.

More adventures to follow …

  1. Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.
  2. All other trademarks and registered marks are the property of their respective owners.

Leaping forward?

Got a Xbox Kinect, Playstation Move, or similar 3D gaming interface at home? Isn’t it cool to not have to hunt for a remote or wand or controller to be able to participate in a game? And it’s nice to not worry whether our devices have power, or whether kids (or adults) will spill food, drinks, crumbs, or dirt on them and make them unusable.

Wouldn’t it be even cooler if we had touch-free control of our desktops, laptops, and enterprise computers, the way Tom Cruise did in “Minority Report”? (see WIMP video here)

Technology has been getting closer to making this vision a reality. For instance, this demo at TED 2010 showed a spatial user interface, but it required the user to wear special gloves.
TED 2010 demo of a spatial user interface by John Underkoffler

A new device by LeapMotion proposes to make the vision of accessory-free, touch-free navigation a reality. I pre-ordered a Leap Motion controller last year, and watched as beta stories like NASA controlling a space robot with a Leap Motion sensor began to surface.

Today I received my new toy technology device. The LeapMotion controller is tiny: a sleek, lightweight device about as long and thick as my index finger and twice as wide. So it takes just a small bit of space in front of my keyboard. [see more photos here].
Leap Motion image of their new controller: image usage believed to be consistent with their Social Medial Guidelines at

I will be writing more here as I try out my Leap Motion controller. Stay tuned!

Image credits:

  1. TED 2010 image by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr, via Wikimedia, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
  2. Leap Motion controller image used in accordance with their social media guidelines

Leap Motion and the Leap Motion logo are the trademarks of Leap Motion, Inc. and are used here by permission.