Back in April 2013, the tech world was blown away by this video showing off an armband that gave its wearer the ability to control several different kinds of technology using basic hand gestures. It seemed fantastic, and you could pre-order your way into the future for just $150. Thalmic Labs is finally shipping these armbands to early supporters, and while it’s clear this concept isn’t ready for primetime just yet, it’s also not hard to see how that gesture control future isn’t too far off.
Myo is an armband that combines muscle response and gesture controls to give users the ability to control just about anything — at least in theory. The developer alpha for this armband has been out for a little while now, and in the long-term the hardware is expected to be able to control things on desktop PC and mobile OS platforms alike. In demo videos, we’ve seen control of things from the Sphero remote ball and even controlling the interface on Google Glass.
The software shipping with these Myo armbands is still version 0.4.0, and doesn’t support iOS or Android just yet. You can, however, hook it up via Bluetooth to your computer.
Setting up a Myo is fairly simple. You put the armband on your forearm, and the software walks you through a series of training gestures to get you comfortable with the interface. The gestures are basic, like touching your pinky and thumb together. While you might need to reposition either your arm or the armband in order to get it to recognize the gestures, it’s very easy once you figure it out.
The box includes special clasps if your forearm is smaller than most, but in most cases the band will fit very snugly. If you have a larger forearm, the band will likely become uncomfortable after about an hour of use.
As a user, most of what you can do with Myo right now is fairly simple. You can flick your wrist and control presentations, clench your fist and rotate it to adjust your volume, and even manipulate things like iTunes or Netflix. You have to have focus on that app in order to control anything right now, so it’s not great for multitasking. This is the early days of Myo, but it’s not hard to see where things are going from here. Third party developers have already begun working to support multiple platforms, and Thalmic’s own software isn’t even in 1.0 form just yet.
Much like the initial pre-order, this is the kind of thing you should participate in if you are interested in seeing the evolution of the tech. By no means is Myo complete, and it’s going to be a little while before we really start to see the armband do things that are particularly interesting. Myo has the potential to offer gesture controls where things like a Kinect sensor wouldn’t work, but depending on how comfortable you are wearing this band all the time, it’s not obvious to see how useful this tech is going to be to everyone. As a $150 toy that is only going to get better with time, this is a very cool thing to see out in the wild.