Touchless computer control from Waterloo tech company an early success

A local company, Thalmic Labs of Waterloo, Ontario, has developed what they are hoping could be the next big thing in wearable computing: a touchless control device. The MYO armband will allow wearers to control their computers and other Bluetooth devices just by pointing at them and moving their arms and fingers. It is not camera based, like the Xbox Kinect, but entirely gesture controlled.

According to the company, the device works “out of the box” with things users already have, like a Mac or Windows PC. Everything that is now done by means of a mouse, touchscreen, joystick or remote control device will be done with a wave of the hand. This includes video games, presentations, creating content and browsing the web. It is, as the creators say, a whole new way to interact with technology. The company is hoping to attract developers to really exploit the device’s potential.

“There are no limits on MYO’s workspace,” said Stephen Lake, a co-founder of Thalmic Labs. “Users will be able to interact with computers and devices anywhere using simple hand and finger motions. And, since we built our product for developers, the applications of MYO’s gesture control capabilities are limitless.”

To use the MYO, you just strap on the one-size-fits-all, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy armband, which runs on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and an ARM processor. The “proprietary muscle activity sensors” detect your arm’s gestures and movements and convert the electrical activity of the muscles into wireless signals that can control wireless devices. The creators at Thalmic Labs say that the device works so efficiently and quickly that movements often seem to be detected before they are even visible.

Will consumers go for it? Early indications are very positive. Thalmic Labs  have taken advance orders for more than 25,000 of the devices as of now, at a cost of $149 each. The early success seems to have taken the company by surprise. They had hoped to sell just 7,000 of the MYO armbands by the end of March. Instead, they are now taking orders for the second shipment, and “working hard” to get them to consumers in 124 countries. They begin shipping later this year.

 

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