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Myo: More Muscle for Wearables?

At the Designer of Things conference in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Goodine, developer evangelist for Thalmic Labs, about the company's innovative wearable control device, Myo.

Myo is an armband that monitors electrical signals in the wearer's arm muscles and converts them into roll, pitch, and yaw (movement along the x, y, and z axes) to track motion in three dimensions. Thalmic Labs started shipping Myo to developers in July and plans to begin deliveries to other customers shortly.

Myo, like Apple's iPhone, Leap Motion, and Microsoft Kinect, represents an effort to redefine how we interact with computers in the mobile era. The mouse just doesn't work when you're on the move. Touch and voice interaction have filled the gap, but gestures have potential, too, particularly when conditions inhibit touch or voice — wet, noisy, or dirty environments, for example.

“We see this opening up a number of applications that just aren't possible with current technologies,” said Goodine.

Yet the initial use cases being contemplated — controlling slides during a presentation and controlling media on a television — can be managed with current technologies. Presenters continue to make do with remote controls on stage.

Myo armband aspires to become the mouse of the mobile world, but it has a way to go to get there.

Myo armband aspires to become the mouse of the mobile world, but it has a way to go to get there.

Dealing with media being sent from a laptop or tablet to a TV presents a more complicated scenario. Myo's gesture tracking offers some advantages as a way to interact with a computing device that's across the room, but those advantages may not be compelling enough to displace traditional handheld remotes. Traditional remotes have their own advantages, like familiarity and months of battery life; Myo can run for two days on a charge, though it may last longer because it powers down when not in use.

“It's pretty natural,” Goodine said. “The device itself can understand large movements through the motion sensor. And using the muscle sensor, it can actually understand hand positions.”

At a developer-oriented presentation, Goodine used Myo to advance projected slides with a hand gesture.

During the presentation, attendees wrote a script in the Lua programming language to map gestures read by Myo to keyboard commands on a computer connected through Bluetooth. This allowed participants to play Tetris on the computer using hand movements.

The results were only partially satisfying. Unlike a mouse click or mouse movement, gestures can be ambiguous. Myo sometimes failed to register specific gestures, or I failed to move in the way Myo expected. Either way, there were times when Myo didn't get the message.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site Information Week.

4 comments on “Myo: More Muscle for Wearables?

  1. SP
    October 8, 2014

    Having remote control via wearables is a fantastic idea. Imagine you are in the kitchen and wants to change the channel of your TV or audio system. Lots can be done with this. But charging every two days is quite an unattractive feature. How about chrging using solar panels..it will  be great.

  2. Daniel
    October 8, 2014

    “Having remote control via wearables is a fantastic idea. Imagine you are in the kitchen and wants to change the channel of your TV or audio system. Lots can be done with this. But charging every two days is quite an unattractive feature. How about chrging using solar panels..it will  be great.”

    SP, charging via solar panel inside the house is not at all feasible. When not in use it can be recharged by plug in to sockets like our mobile phones.

  3. SunitaT
    October 10, 2014

    Since these are wearables, they can be charged using thermal energy from our body. Although it is true that our body does not emit so much of heat, and if this technology is used, the charging would be slow. We must find alternative energy sources for charging wearables.

  4. SunitaT
    October 10, 2014

    Since we are talking about wearables (and considering how bulky this wearable is), they would get more stylish and easier to carry around. 
    Also, since this wearable can weave X,Y and Z axis details in the form of data, security measures can be taken in safes, computers etc, and the wearer would only have to weave a pattern of gesture while looking at the computer (while the sensor in the computer picks up the gesture password) and it will unlock if the gesture is correct.

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