Leap Motion Announces Open-Source AR Dev Kit ‘Project North Star’

The company reveals plans to release their prototype design for a $100 hand-tracking AR headset.

If you’re looking to add accurate hand-tracking technology to your VR or AR experience, there are few options outside Leap Motion technology. The American computer sensor hardware manufacturer provides some of the highest commercial quality gesture-tracking devices on the market at some of the most competitive prices available.

Now the company has revealed its next big step in the form of Project North Star, an open source AR development kit that features a combined 100-degree field of view, low latency, and high resolution with support for the Leap Motion controller for precise hand-tracking.

Rather than simply design a singular AR headset for commercial use, Leap Motion instead developed an open-source AR platform compatible with Leap Motion controllers for developers to utilize and build-upon independently.

Using their newly-developed platform, the company designed their own prototype AR headset featuring two ultra-bright, low-persistence “bird bath” style optics capable of supporting 1,600 × 1,400 per-eye resolution at a solid 120 frames per second. All of which come together for a total price tag of just $100. Where’s your jaw at the moment? Mine’s currently on the floor…

“Coupled with our world-class 180° hand tracking sensor, we realized that we had a system unlike anything anyone had seen before,” said the company in their official blog post. “All of this was possible while keeping the design of the North Star headset fundamentally simple – under one hundred dollars to produce at scale. So although this is an experimental platform right now, we expect that the design itself will spawn further endeavors that will become available to the rest of the world.”

It’s important to note this prototype design is actually an older, scaled-back version that focused on performance over comfort and practicality.

“[…] we wanted to create something with the highest possible technical specifications, and then work our way down until we had something that struck a balance between performance and form-factor,” the company continued in their blog.

After some technical adjustments and several compromises to more accurately balance quality with comfort, the team was eventually able to scale the headset down to a more practical design.

“We ended up with something roughly the size of a virtual reality headset. In whole it has fewer parts and preserves most of our natural field of view,” the blog post continues. “The combination of the open air design and the transparency generally made it feel immediately more comfortable than virtual reality systems (which was actually a bit surprising to everyone who used it).”

In order to keep the platform accessible to as many willing users as possible, Leap Motion will be releasing both the hardware and software specifications for free, so developers can build their own cost-effective devices.

“We hope that these designs will inspire a new generation of experimental AR systems that will shift the conversation from what an AR system should look like, to what an AR experience should feel like.”

“We’ve got a long way to go still, so let’s go together.”

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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