The gesture interface company Leap Motion is making an announcement of an ambitious, but still, very early, plan for an augmented reality platform on the basis of its hand tracking system. The system is known as Project North Star, and it involves a design for a headset that Leap Motion claims is priced at less than 100 dollars at a large-scale production. The headset would be equipped with a Leap Motion sensor so that the users could precisely manipulate the objects with their hands — something that the company has offered earlier for desktop and VR displays.
Project North Star is not a new consumer headset, nor would Leap Motion be selling a version to the developers at this point. Instead, the company is releasing the required hardware specifications and software under an open source license in the next week. The company wrote that they hope that those designs would inspire a new generation of experimental AR systems that would shift the conversation from what an AR system should appear like, to what an AR experience should feel like.
The headset design makes use of two fast-refreshing 3.5-inch LCD displays with a resolution of 1600×1440 per eye. The displays reflect their light onto a visor that the users perceive as a transparent overlay. Leap Motion said that this offers a field of view that is 95 degrees high and 70 degrees wide, larger than most of the AR systems that exist today. The Leap Motion sensor fits above the eyes and tracks hand motion across a far wider field of view, around 180 degrees vertical and horizontal.
The Leap Motion emphasized that it is not a headset company, and it has said that before that it is primarily interested in getting the software running on as many systems as possible. The users could already stick a Leap Motion sensor onto a HoloLens mixed reality headset, making more addition of sophisticated hand tracking to the existing hardware.
While the Leap Motion is citing an impressive cost and field of view, the Project North Star, as far as it could be seen, is not meant to one-up headsets such as HoloLens and Magic Leap. It is supposed to extend great hand interactions, but not an advanced room-scale tracking, interaction with the environment, or a self-contained design. The design would be helpful for the small players that want to experiment with the augmented reality hardware while needing relatively little investment from the Leap Motion itself.
Hand tracking is an obvious feature for the augmented and mixed reality headsets, and companies such as Magic Leap, Microsoft, and Meta have all expressed their interest in it. But a headset throwing its full weight behind the systems like the Leap Motion’s has not been seen, which articulate each finger separately and aim at replicating the physics of picking up and moving the objects. While people have not got to try the headset, Keiichi Matsuda, the Leap Motion design VP has posted some very cool early videos via a prototype, including the demonstrations of handling a holographic cube and pulling up a virtual wrist display.