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David Holz's Leap Motion Wants to Kill the Mouse

Pinching Closer to the Death of the Mouse
David Holz's Leap Motion Wants to Kill the Mouse
Photograph by Mathew Scott for Bloomberg Businessweek

Growing up in southern Florida, David Holz was a tinkerer. “I had a large pile of all sorts of electronics,” he says. “I was trying to figure out how things worked.” In high school, he built a system that uses several microphones to pinpoint where a noise originates; the U.S. military now uses similar tools to locate snipers. Holz’s project took him to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, but he didn’t win a prize. “I lost to somebody who cured a disease,” he says.

Holz, now 23, has moved on from sound-mapping. His new startup, Leap Motion, is dedicated to changing the way people interact with computers. Holz and his co-founder, Michael Buckwald, have built a device about the size of a cigarette lighter that contains three tiny cameras inside. It attaches to a computer and turns any PC or Mac into a gesture-recognition device. The idea is similar to the one behind Microsoft’s Kinect, an Xbox add-on that lets people play games just by moving their hands and body. At $70, the Leap Motion is about half the price of a Kinect. It’s also far more accurate, says Holz. The software that analyzes the images from the three cameras can track all 10 of a user’s fingers and detect movements of less than one-hundredth of a millimeter. “It’s so precise that it tracks down to the tendon,” says Andy Miller, a former Apple executive and now a partner at Highland Capital Partners, which has contributed to Leap Motion’s $14.5 million in funding.