Touchscreens might be the input technology du-jour, but when it comes to wearables, that sort of interface is a bit clunky, a bit too big and a bit too power hungry to be good for everyday use, which is why many developers are trying to come up with a solution for a different way of telling our smart devices what to do. Myo is a product from ThalmicLabs which gives gesture control to a huge number of devices, from smartphones to gaming systems, as well as being able to track information about you, the wearer.
The first and most obvious – and really, the most impressive – feature of the Myo is it’s ability to provide gesture control to games consoles, quad-copter drones, your PC, smartphone and many other devices, in a very unique way. Instead of tracking the motion you’re making, the Myo actually tracks your muscle contractions. Looking at the way your forearm muscles work, it’s able to discern a huge number of quite intricate movements, far more than something like the Microsoft Kinect camera can achieve by looking at the movement of your arm or hand.
This gives you fine control over things like the volume of your stereo, or the specific movements of a remote controlled drone. It even allows for the quite precise replacement of a standard mouse, if the promo video is to be believed.
It communications with your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 low energy, and tracks your muscles’ electrical activity via EMG muscle activity sensors and combines that data with information from: a three axis accelerometer, a three axis gyroscope and a three axis magnetometer too – giving it some of the most precise motion and gesture tracking in the world.
As it stands, you can’t buy the Myo straight from the manufacturer, you can only pre-order it for $150, which works out to around £90. Chances are it will cost closer to £120 once you tack on shipping, the usual British price hike and VAT, so don’t expect it to be found cheaply for a short while after release. The developer kit is also available with less support for the same price right now, but will ship sooner than the eventual commercial version.
One of the problems with a device like this is always going to be cost. Until gesture controls are more proven as an easy to use, everyday input method for multiple devices, you’re going to find it hard to get people to spend $150 on what is essentially, a fancy gesture mouse for their technology that will need setting up and configuring with every device it hooks up with – for now. In time chances are the Myo will find wide acceptance if it’s as good as the developers claim, but it’ll take some time before people are going to be willing to invest over £100 in one.
The Myo looks incredible. It looks game changing, but it faces the same problem as the Oculus Rift and other revolutionary technologies: the chicken and the egg. First we’ll need Myo adoption for developers to support it, but we’ll need developers to give it uses to increase adoption. If one can come before the other it should snowball, but we’ll have to wait and see if anyone is wishing to dish out $150 for something that doesn’t have much support as of yet.