From genetically-engineered glowing plants and 3D-printed food, it often seems that our technological reality had finally entered the realm of science fiction. But the way we interact with our computers and mobile devices hasn’t changed radically. Anew device from Thalmic Labs aims to change that. Meet the Myo, an armband that uses the body’s natural movements to manipulate electronics.
The Myo (named after the Greek prefix for “muscle”) is an adjustable band that works by measuring the electrical impulses produced by physical activity. The sensors embedded in the gadget translate these microvolts of power and amplify them, using movement to form a digital command. Instead of relying on cameras or voice recognition, Thalmic Labs was able to identify several commonly used gestures and program them into thousands of directives. The Myo is also able to learn movements over time, increasing accuracy specific to the wearer. Haptic feedback, or small vibrations, tell the user that they have made a recognized gesture like a pinch or swipe, shortening learning time.
“If you think about your daily life, you use your hands to interact with and manipulate just about everything you do, from pressing numbers on your phone to picking up your coffee,” Stephen Lake, co-founder of Thalmic Labs, told Wired. “Now think if we can take all those motions and actions and plug them into just about any computer or digital system, the possibilities are endless.”
The first 25,000 units of the Myo are expected to ship late this year at a cost of $149 each, and pre-orders are already being taken. They will come with an open API so that developers will be able to use the cuff to interact with their own systems. While the Myo may currently be the most attractive to the gadget-loving, Google Glass-wearing set, the major challenge will be to make the controller a ubiquitous piece of equipment for engaging with current familiar technology. With the wave of an arm, we could possibly be welcoming a whole new interface between biology and technology.