Michael Buckwald, co-founder and CEO of Leap Motion, announced today partnership with Digital China which will be the exclusive distributor for the hand & figure motion control tech company in China at 2014 TechCrunch China/TechNode annual event in Beijing.
Digital China is one of the largest IT infrastructure service providers and consumer IT product distributors. Later this week there will be a hackathon for local developers. At the official launch event at the end of this month, some applications by Chinese developers are expected to debut then.
Leap Motion and Digital China will share revenues from China market. Developers who contribute apps, of course, will take a revenue share from the app or in-app sales.
The hand and finger motion control technology from Leap Motion, founded in 2010, has created much fuss around the world. Its solution has been embedded into some PC keyboards or laptops by HP and bundled with select ASUS laptops. The Leap Motion Controller, a USB peripheral device that enables you to interact with your average PC or Mac with gestures, was launched in 2012 and began shipping in mass volume in July 2013. The company has built application store Airspace, which has had more than 200 apps, encouraging third-party developers to develop apps for users of the Controller and aforementioned computers. Leap Motion has raised a total of more than US$44 million in funding.
Two months ago Mr. Buckwald told me they were looking for local partners, retailers, PC manufacturers, and local developers who would be interested in building apps for Airspace. The Controller now is on Chinese retail site JD.com, which has built a dedicated sub-site for smart hardware. China is of the top five markets in its sales, according to Buckwald. A Chinese version of its website is available too.
Chinese clones have emerged. Sharpnow, based in Tianjin, China (What’s interesting is it’s not based in Shenzhen, a long-timer manufacturing center and now smart hardware hub), has come up with a gadget that looks similar to the Leap Motion Controller and now is on Demohour, one of the well-known Kickstarter clones in China, raising money for the first batch of the products which they promise to ship in the coming October. The gadget will be sold at a lower price than Leap Motion Controller. Sharpnow raised muli-million yuan in seed funding from Matrix Partners China earlier this year. The company said they would made some improvements and make their gadget perform well with low-spec devices which are used by a large number of Chinese users, as reported by Chinese tech blog Tech2ipo (in Chinese).
Also Sharpnow said they’d partner with smart TVs instead of desktop and laptop Leap Motion has been working on. Leap Motion is trying to expand to other devices such as connected automobile.
But many people in the tech industry believe, unlike most Internet services such as messaging apps with which clones can be exactly the same, the technology Leap Motion has developed can hardly be copied, and manufacturers and developers can tell the difference.