Gesture Through News Minority Report-Style With New York Times’ Leap Motion App

Hands-free device interactions are rapidly becoming mainstream. Here’s how the New York Times plans to use motion-control sensors to scroll through news.

Hands-free device interactions are rapidly becoming mainstream. We can answer phone calls and watch YouTube videos while changing baby diapers. We can play video games without the use of a controller, swatting virtual tennis balls with nothing more than the movement of our arms. And soon we may even be reading the news entirely through gestures.


Today, the New York Times announced a unique news app designed for Leap Motion. Rather than having to flick through headlines on a touch-screen device or scroll through articles using a mouse–how antiquated!–the company’s new app allows readers to navigate through stories by motioning their hands in mid-air, with Leap Motion sensors interpreting the signals.

Like Xbox Kinect, Leap Motion’s tools allow you to interact with computers using gestures–by waving, pinching, and so forth. It’s an interesting technology–which was tremendously well received at this year’s SXSW conference–but the question has been what applications could take advantage of the service.

The Times‘ app will be available on Mac OS X- and Windows-based laptops and desktops. In a demo of the app released today, a user is shown pointing to the right to slide through news tiles; gesturing at a headline to select an article; and then twirling his or her finger to scroll through the piece. To exit a story, simply wave your hand back and forth to return to the main screen.

It’s certainly a fun demo–and an app that will give many the excuse to try Leap Motion’s device. The New York Times has also suggested it will give the company an opportunity to implement new advertising capabilities “that [will] allow brands to connect with readers using motion-controlled ad units.”

But it’s still unclear whether this is anything more than a novelty. For one, the interaction could cause the so-called “gorilla-arm effect,” especially as the New York Times has demoed it. But twirling my finger over and over to scroll through an article? It looks downright tedious.

[Image: LeapMotion]

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.