Leap Motion gets $30M to change how you interact with computers

There’s a school of thought that says that the language you learn shapes how you think. If that’s the case, then the keyboard and mouse have shaped the way we think of content creation and the limits of computers. But Leap Motion, the San Francisco-based startup, wants to change that, much in the way that touch has changed the way we interact with — and the apps we use — on our mobile phones.

The company, which was founded in 2010 has built a peripheral device that you plug into a computer or laptop that can enable a gesture-based user interface that incorporates all directions — not just a flat perspective. Some have described it as a Kinect for computers. The device has a 150-degree field of view and can accurately track the movements of all 10 fingers down to the 1/100th of a millimeter, which is apparently pretty darn impressive according to reviewers.

And with a $30 million second round of funding, Leap plans to manufacture its peripheral device at scale. The funding round, led by Founders Fund with previous investor Highland Capital Partners participating, follows a $14.5 million Series A round. It will also support today’s second piece of news — namely that ASUS will bundle the Leap Motion device in with its all in one computers as well as select notebooks this year.

That’s a nice win in the computing space, but the real question for me is can a new UI change how we interact with computers, and perhaps help keep the PC relevant? David Holz, the a co-founder and CTO of Leap told me that he helped invent the product because he wanted to do things on his computer, like play an instrument or make a model, that were made far too complicated by the existing programs limited by drop down menus necessitated by having a keyboard or mouse interface.

But beyond a new UI that makes existing applications a bit more user-friendly, the company’s CEO and Co-founder Michael Buckwald also want to promote the creation of new apps that take advantage of the horsepower today’s computers have. He says most people don’t use their computers fully , but with a new interface editing a video or even CAD design becomes more accessible to novices.

I’m excited by the idea that people can use the gesture-based UI to build increasingly rich data analysis programs. Imagine taking the spreadsheet and adding more dimensions to it. You could relate different data sets to each other more easily and perhaps let the computer perform correlation analysis quickly by dragging information from location to another on multiple axes.

Today with more than 12,000 developers working with the product and its software development kit, Leap is hoping that new applications in gaming (play angry birds where you mime sling shotting the birds instead of just touching it), navigation of documents (doctors or home cooks could navigate a medical file or a recipe without worrying about messy hands) and even video and image editing help make its controller the new mouse. And if, in doing that, it can get people excited about their PCs and the horsepower available to them, then companies beyond Leap will benefit.