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How Leap Motion can use its accelerator program to … leapfrog the competition

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When you build something new, you need to show people it’s worth it. In the technology world one way to do that is to find applications for your invention to show people what the new-fangled tech can make possible. If you’re Apple, maybe you can open up an app store and developers will rush to fill it because of the huge potential audience, but if you’re a startup gesture-controlled controller maybe you have to pay developers a bit of money to seed your market with awesome apps that show off the technology’s promise.

They may not agree with the characterization, but that’s what some investors in Leap Motion have managed to create with the Founders Fund and SOSventures teaming up to offer the Leap AXLR8R program. On Friday it named 10 startups to the program — all that take the Leap’s gesture-based controls out of the realm of gameplay into something far more interesting.

These applications range from physical therapy and sterile operating room interfaces to controlling robots and enabling a computer-vision-aided wearable. Each participant in the 13-week accelerator program gets mentoring and $25,000 in seed funding from SOSventures. They’ll also debut at a demo day on May 9 to a room full of investors and potential employees.

This sort of program is a good move by Leap and its investors since Leap’s technology has so much promise, but many of the implementations so far are a bit limited to games. I believe the tech has promise, but my initial review didn’t convert me to the technology. And as more alternative user interfaces emerge it’s not enough just to have a developer program and an SDK for folks to play with. Not only is there a lot of competition to build apps for a variety of UIs (Kinect, MYO, Leap, Oculus Rift etc.) some of the greatest promise for the Leap might end up in relatively smaller, niche, professional markets like medicine or industrial design that will still need a lot of hand-holding before adopting a new UI and app.

That’s not the kind of business one can build in a 48-hour hackathon. I’ll be curious to see how this first class of Leap-focused startups does and what it might mean for the adoption of the Leap technology in more places. And for those who are wondering, here are the startups participating in the program:

  • MotionSavvy – Giving voice to the deaf and hard-of-hearing through real-time American Sign Language translation
  • Diplopia – Restoring depth perception for the 5 percent of the population affected by amblyopia (lazy eye) through virtual reality computer games using Oculus Rift and Leap Motion
  • Sterile Air – Creating the “Operating System” to enable a computerized, sterile surgical operating room
  • LivePainter – Enabling real-time DJ-ing and VJ-ing as performance art via live web collaboration
  • Ten Ton Raygun – Gamifying physical rehabilitation therapy for stroke and other injuries to make rehab fun, quicker, and measurable
  • Mirror Training – Making robots an extension of your own body using Leap Motion and video. A DARPA spinoff revolutionizing robotic arm control with a natural user interface and visual feedback for the user
  • GetVu – Creating a next-gen augmented reality platform that mixes computer vision with human vision in a wearable device
  • Illuminator 4D – Easily create interactive, holographic environments for retail and in-home usage
  • Crispy Driven Pixels – Reinventing 2D and 3D creative software through a new, natural user interface
  • Paralagames– Improving hand-eye coordination through games controlled by the hand

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