In just a few months, a Canadian startup will release a hands-free device that will enable users to control their computers without a mouse. Buzz60‘s Andrew Dymburt reports on a new device, called the Myo armband, by Canadian startup Thalmic Labs. The company wants to replace the computer mouse with the smart armband, which enables users to control a variety of computers and devices with simple hand gestures. The armband’s sensors measure the electrical activity in the user’s arm muscles to detect what gesture the user is making, and sense the motions and rotations of the hand.
The armband is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, with which it communicates via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Thalmic Labs says that developer kits, with an early version of the armband, are shipping this month. The final Myo armband will begin shipping to consumers in September, after all developer kits have shipped. The final version is available for pre-order in black or white for $149.
It features proprietary electromyography, or EMG, muscle activity sensors, and a “nine-axis IMU,” or inertial measurement unit, comprised of a three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer, and three-axis magnetometer. It also features a built-in lithium ion battery that’s charged via micro USB, and Thalmic Labs says that the battery life is currently being optimized, with the goal of multi-day use in mind. Some applications will support the use of two armbands at once, and gestures within the system will be pre-set by Thalmic Labs.
Thalmic Labs is led by mechatronics engineers Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant. The company’s goal is to “build the future of human-computer interaction,” using “wearable and ubiquitous computing.” The computer mouse is widely considered an outdated form of input, after 40 years of use. Interactive interfaces enabled by touchscreen technology are expected to drive the extinction of the computer mouse, and improved motion detection technology has already given rise to gaming controllers that provide more intuitive control over and interaction with devices.
However, current versions of these gesture-control systems, like Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Kinect, use a camera to watch the user’s motions, and rely on motion recognition algorithms that run into trouble in low light or over long distances. But Digital Trends tested the Myo in January, and reported that the system is “far superior to any camera-based system we’ve ever encountered.” Digital Trends’ Drew Prindle also wrote that the armband “makes using Kinect look like drunk charades” — which seems like a good sign for consumers who are looking for a truly viable gesture control system.