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Leap Motion controller aims for better finger-tracking with version 2 software public beta

Virtual reality for your hands could be closer than ever, thanks to Leap Motion's newest free software update.

Leap Motion Controller
Sarah Tew/CNET

Last year's Leap Motion controller was a bold vision of virtual reality for your hands: 3D motion sensing like the Kinect, but on a tiny scale you could use on a desk. Unfortunately, version 1 of Leap Motion didn't track hand motion as seamlessly as it needed to. The technology started as a USB PC accessory, and ended up in HP laptops and prototype Oculus Rift VR headsets, too.

Leap Motion could enter a second phase, however, where its functions might finally reach its potential. Leap Motion V2 Tracking public developer beta software is now available as a free download. It will work on existing Leap Motion controllers.

The tracking software's promised upgrades are significant: the individual joints and bones of your fingers are labeled and tracked, even when out of the Leap Motion's line of sight, creating a seamless sense of full-hand virtual motion. There's "massively improved" resistance to external infrared interference from direct sunlight or bright indoor lighting. For developers, there's an increased 27 dimensions of data per hand to fine-tune applications with, along with new grab/pinch APIs.

"Our vision has always been to let people do more with technology -- so we can reach into the screen and interact with applications on our devices in the same way we interact with the physical world every day," says Leap Motion CEO Michael Buckwald.

"This means taking things like sculpting a lump of clay, snapping together building blocks, or learning to play an instrument -- the types of actions 99 per cent of people just won't or can't do on a computer with traditional input devices -- and making them possible and instantly accessible to anyone who knows how to do them with their physical hands in the real world," Buckwald explains.

You can see Leap Motion's latest software in action in the video embedded above. It's hard not to get a little excited by what the latest version seems to bring. Maybe this version of Leap is exactly what virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift really need.