My Minority Report Treadmill Desk

I’m still excited about both my treadmill desk and my Leap motion controller. In fact, they complement each other nicely.

When I’m just reading news feeds or watching video while walking at my desk, I usually turn up the speed of the treadmill because I don’t need steady hands for typing. Once I get up to 3mph or faster, I can still hit keys on my keyboard, but typing out an email becomes very laborious. For just reading and media viewing, though, it’s fine. I set up my Leap Motion with BetterTouchTool to make it even more enjoyable.

I played around with “Speakable Items” for additional control, but when I get into these phases I usually have loud music or spoken audio playing that makes giving commands to the computer difficult. I’ll probably explore that more in the future with a push-to-talk button (either a gesture or my PowerMate) to mute background audio when I speak. For now, here are the Leap actions that I have set up.

The gestures

  • Five fingers up reveals my Desktop and all of the information that GeekTool provides me, including current weather conditions and temperature, system information, sales numbers and more
  • Five fingers down centers the current window
  • Five fingers left and right switches spaces
  • Three fingers up toggles fullscreen for the current window
  • Two fingers left or right maximizes the current window to half the screen on either side
  • Two fingers up toggles Mission Control
  • Two fingers down shows Dashboard (which, yes, I still use1, for now)
  • A single finger up or down triggers page up/down in any application

Audio control:

  • Three fingers left and right switches tracks in Spotify, iTunes or Vox (using Simplify), or playlist items in VLC
  • Three finger tap (which is a poking motion) controls play/pause
  • A slow clap toggles mute

I also have some application-specific gestures, such as single finger left/right/up/down navigation for SliceReader, and one and two-finger gestures for changing feeds/items/scrolling in ReadKit. There are also gestures for jumping to MailMate, switching mailboxes and navigating, flagging, and tagging messages for dealing with later.

With these gestures enabled, I can make the primary apps I want to use full screen and navigate between them using five-finger swipes left and right. For consistency, all of my up/down/left/right gestures use “natural” directions, e.g. swiping left goes to the next track, right to the previous.

The future

There’s still more I can do, such as using Leap and trackpad gestures to quickly switch BetterTouchTool presets. I’m thinking it would be cool to have a tap (poke) gesture on the Leap that toggled a preset group that made it easy to control the Application Switcher and toggle mouse mode (finger control of the mouse via the Leap) on and off.

At higher walking speeds, hitting keyboard keys takes extra concentration, so I’m also thinking of building an HTML5 interface for my iPad that triggers common apps and tasks using large buttons and swipe paging, alleviating the need to have too many air gestures.

For now, though, this setup makes brisk walking and news/media exploration easy.

Plus, it feels like I’m in Minority Report.

YouTube Video
  1. I have widgets on my Dashboard for controlling my lights, triggering Jekyll previews and builds, performing various hashes on text, additional weather info, web stats and package delivery tracking, etc..

Brett Terpstra

Brett is a writer and developer living in Minnesota, USA. You can follow him as ttscoff on Twitter, GitHub, and Mastodon. Keep up with this blog by subscribing in your favorite news reader.

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