By analysing the muscular activity of its wearer, the MYO smart armband enables the user to control electronic devices remotely without the need to install a camera.
Man-machine interaction seems to be advancing towards omnipresent computing and a gradually disappearing interface. The latest example of this is the new electronic armband developed by Canadian startup Thalmic Labs, which transforms your forearm into a remote control. But where the MYO armband differs from existing gesture recognition devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect Xbox is that it does not need a camera. Instead it interprets the electrical impulses from the arm muscles when the wearer makes gestures, enabling it to interact with objects via Bluetooth 4.0.
Gesture recognition, based on electromyography
The technology Thalmic Labs uses is usually employed for electromyography, a technique for monitoring a patient’s muscular and nerve activity. MYO uses a multitude of sensors, including a gyroscope and an AEM processor, to recognise forearm and finger movements almost before they take place. The movements of the arm and fingers as they move around are then analysed and transformed into data. “Hands are the ultimate tool for input,”argues Thalmic Labs’s founder Stephen Lake, explaining: “With a MYO, users can scroll a web page remotely, shoot at an enemy in a video game and control a drone, etc.”
Question mark over intent?
Thalmic Labs has recently opened up the MYO API in order to encourage developers to come up with innovations to the system, as this technology has many potential applications in various fields. The fact that MYO does away with the need for a camera means that users are not constrained to stay in front of their computers. As an example, MYO, in conjunction with Google Now, could provide practical advice when you are busy waxing your car so that you do not damage the paintwork. However, there is still one obvious question mark hanging over this type of connected object, which can potentially be worn on a permanent basis. How is the technology going to differentiate between a situation where the wearer is making a deliberate gesture to give a command and one where the user makes a movement without any special intent?