Leap Motion starts expanded beta, opens dev portal to the public, shows off Airspace app store (hands-on)

Slowly but surely Leap Motion is making its way toward a commercial release. Today, the company has announced it's moving into the next phase of beta testing and that it will be opening up its developer portal to the public later in the week. While this still won't get folks a Leap device any faster, it will let them dig into Leap's tools and code base in preparation for when they finally get one. The move marks a shift from the company's previous SDK-focused beta to a consumer-focused one that'll serve to refine the UX in Windows and OSX. Within each operating system, there will be two levels of Leap control: basic, which essentially allows you to use Leap in place of a touchscreen, and advanced to allow for more 3D controls enabled by Leap's ability to detect the pitch and yaw of hands in space.

CEO Michael Buckwald gave us this good news himself, and also gave us a preview of Airspace, Leap's app store, and a few app demos for good measure. As it turns out, Airspace is a two-pronged affair -- Airspace Store is showcase for all software utilizing the Leap API and Airspace Home is a launcher that keeps all the Leap apps that you own in one convenient place. There will be 50 apps in Airspace at the start of the beta, with offerings from pro tools and utility apps to casual games, and we got to see a few examples.%Gallery-192153%

Leap Motion starts expanded beta, opens dev portal to the public, shows off Airspace app store handson

We tried our hands at playing Boom Ball (think Brickbreaker in 3D) and messing around in Google Earth, and found Leap to be as capable as the first time we saw it. Control was extremely precise, and being able to tilt our hand to change the angle of ricochet for balls or our direction of flight over the terrain in Google Earth felt natural and fluid. We also saw demos of Photoscape (a cover flow-esque photo viewer), Exoplanet (a 3D model of the known universe), and Block 54 (a Jenga-style game). Each showcased the kinds of basic controls you'd expect: swiping, pinch-to-zoom and selection by jabbing a finger an inch towards the screen. They also gave a glimpse of Leap's potential for enabling a natural UI, where users can interact with digital objects in similar fashion to how they do with physical ones.

If you're worried about there being continued development of Leap-enabled apps, you need not be. Last week, Highland Capital Partners created the $25 million Leap Fund to invest in devs and entrepreneurs building businesses that take advantage of Leap Motion technology.

Our only complaint? We didn't get to spend more time with the demos testing out that natural UI. But, July is rapidly approaching, so we'll be putting the Leap and those apps through their paces soon enough.

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Highland Capital Partners Establishes $25 Million Leap Fund™; Fuels Businesses Based on Leap Motion Technology
Aims to accelerate wide-spread adoption and disruptive experiences developed using Leap Motion's new 3-D motion-control technology

MENLO PARK, Calif., June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Highland Capital Partners, a global venture capital firm focused on putting the entrepreneur first, today announced the Leap Fund™, a $25 million investment initiative to support entrepreneurs and companies that are developing breakthrough experiences to solve human scale problems.

With the Leap Fund initiative, Highland looks to make investments in developers, entrepreneurs and businesses solving human scale problems in a wide array of sectors, including education, security, healthcare IT, big data and productivity, among others – sectors core to Highland's strategy. In addition to capital, Leap Fund investments will receive guidance, mentorship and access to a deep network of advisors and resources to help them scale. Building on their relationship, Highland Capital Partners and Leap Motion will engage in joint community activities to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship around Leap Motion's technology platform.

Leap Motion provides the world's most powerful and sensitive touch-free 3-D motion-control and motion-sensing technology. Highland Capital Partners led the Series A investment in Leap Motion in early 2012. "It's incredibly rare for a company to have enough potential to warrant an investment program dedicated solely to its technology," said Peter Bell of Highland Capital Partners. "We look forward to working with Leap Motion to continue to grow its already flourishing ecosystem."

"With the Leap Fund, we aim to make investments in companies that will further accelerate the adoption of Leap Motion's technology into our daily lives," said Manish Patel of Highland Capital Partners. "This technology has the potential to transform numerous industries and impact millions of people, and we're excited to support the company."

Later this summer, the Leap Motion Controller will begin shipping to hundreds of thousands of people. Leading OEMs, including HP and ASUS, have inked deals to bundle and/or embed Leap Motion with their products. Best Buy signed a US-retail launch exclusive to sell Leap Motion Controllers in stores across the country. In addition, more than 65,000 developers globally have expressed interest in joining Leap Motion's developer program.

"Highland Capital Partners has championed our mission of breaking down barriers between people and technology from day one," said Michael Buckwald, co-founder and CEO of Leap Motion. "We are pleased to work closely with Highland's Leap Fund to further support our existing developer community and expand the business ecosystem around our revolutionary technology."
Areas of funding interest for the Leap Fund initiative include apps for Airspace™ – Leap Motion's app store, embedding the technology into other hardware or software and unique business use cases.

About Highland Capital Partners
Founded in 1988, Highland Capital Partners is a global venture capital firm focused on putting the entrepreneur first. With offices in Silicon Valley, Boston and Shanghai, Highland has raised over $3 billion in committed capital and invested in more than 225 companies, resulting in category-defining businesses across consumer and enterprise technology. Investments include 2U, Aereo, Ask Jeeves, Bromium, Calxeda, Leap Motion, LevelUp, Lycos, MapQuest, Nebula, QD Vision, Qihoo 360, Quattro Wireless, RentJuice, Rent the Runway, Starent Networks, Sybase, Violin Memory, VistaPrint and WePay. Highland also serves as a mentor for future entrepreneurs through Summer@Highland, a program that provides students and university-affiliated startups with the environment and resources to take their initiative to the next level. For more information, visit