A new startup is making waves in the gesture control industry. Until recently, controlling your PC or other device required some sort of direct input – say, keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen. Then came the first wireless, gesture-based control systems, taking advantage of cameras and some pretty smart algorithms to figure out what your wild gesticulations were trying to accomplish.
We’ve seen some amazing eye-tracking software from Swedish company Tobii, which works really well, but requires you to be facing your computer, or at least the camera, at all times – it isn’t going to work if you want to move around. The same goes for LEAP Motion’s device, which tracks a roughly 8 cubic foot space above your desk, decoding where each and every fingertip goes.
Thalmic Labs’ new MYO, however, is different. It’s a band that you wear around your forearm, and can read the bioelectrical activity of the muscles beneath. It interprets that activity to figure out what gesture you’re doing, and sends that along to your Mac or PC, quadrocopter, or even a set of smart ski goggles. MYO comes from the Greek word “μυο”, for muscle.
There are two obvious upsides to a technology like this. One – its application is universal. You could fairly easily add support for the MYO to interface with televisions, computers – basically, anything that has Bluetooth and accepts external navigation inputs. Two – you don’t need to be sitting down, or facing a camera, or even be near your device for this to work. Since it goes with you, you can use the MYO outdoors, to give a presentation (while you face the audience, not your PC), in another room, etc.
The biggest potential worry with a device like this, of course, is accidentally doing something you don’t mean to do. It would be pretty easy to forget you’re wearing a band that controls your devices, after all; Thalmic attempts to waylay those fears with a notice on its website:
What about accidental input?
We use a unique gesture that is unlikely to occur normally to enable and disable control using the MYO. The MYO alerts the user via haptic feedback to let them know when it is enabled and detecting movement.
In terms of how complicated you can go, the company is promising that the MYO can interpret both motion sensing in 3D space as well as detecting hand gestures down to using individual fingers. At launch, Thalmic is offering out of the box support for OS X and Windows, with APIs coming for developers to use the MYO with iOS and Android devices.
MYO should let users control devices without any detectable lag – because it starts reading the electrical signals within your muscles as you make the gesture, as opposed to waiting for a camera to detect where your hands are.
Inside of the device is a Bluetooth 4.0 radio, a few lithium-ion batteries, and a low-powered ARM CPU. For the gesture recognition, Thalmic incorporated their own proprietary muscle scanning tech as well as a multi-axis accelerometer.
Interested? The company is currently taking preorders at $149 a pop, with a nebulous shipping date of “late 2013”. The company isn’t relying solely on public funding, however, as they’ve already managed to raise approximately $1.1 million in seed funding, from a group of investors including ATI founder Lee Lau.
via: MYO homepage