Myo — a Gesture based Wearable!!!

2014 has been marked as the Year of Wearable devices. Some of the wearable devices available in the market already include — smartwatches, smartbands, smartglasses and smartrings. All these devices become functional once connected to smartphones to make the users aware of notifications, fitness stats, health tips, create shortcut for actions on smartphones, maps navigation for hands free operations.

Welcome Myo armband, a new stream of smart wearable device. Myo armband is a gesture based armband from Thalmic Labs, announced during the first quarter of 2013. The armband uses proprietary EMG (Electromyography) sensors, it measures electrical activity from your muscles to detect five poses made by your hands. Using a 9-axis IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), it senses the motion, orientation and rotation of your forearm. The Myo armband transmits this information over a Bluetooth Smart connection to communicate with Applications or even the Devices.

Usage

Myo armband currently uses the electrical signals that are generated by the muscles in your arms. These signals are then interpreted for very sophisticated controller for things like media, music creation, home automation, gaming, smartphones and smartglasses, etc. Myo is currently compatible for applications running on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android platforms. Currently the armband communicates with Applications like PowerPoint, VLC, iTunes, Netflix and web browsers (chrome, firefox & safari) etc. or even as a gaming controller — allowing user to configure gestures based on each game.

The future of the armband however can only be imagined. The armband can literally be used in fields which benefit with hands free gestures along with Devices like google glass, remote controlled drones, by doctors during surgeries and engineers controlling heavy equipments at construction sites.

The teaser video from Thalmic Labs shows the capabilities but is not limited.

Hardware & Specifications

Since the showcasing of the concept in 2013 till the end of 2014 when the armband actually got the customers (through pre-ordering) the design went through various prototypes to the final retail unit. The final version is sleek, light, medically safe:

The complete history of design changes and prototype is available on the official Thalmic Labs Blog post.

The hardware specifications of the armband include:

Colors

Sizing, Weight, and Dimensions
Arm size: Expandable between 7.5–13 inches (19–34 cm) forearm circumference

Weight: 93 grams

Thickness: 0.45 inches

Hardware

Sensors: Medical Grade Stainless Steel EMG sensors, Highly sensitive nine-axis IMU containing three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer, three-axis magnetometer

LEDs: Dual Indicator LEDs

Processor: ARM Cortex M4 Processor

Haptic Feedback: Short, Medium, Long Vibrations

Power and Battery

  • Micro-USB charging
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • One full day use out of single charge

First hand experience

After pre-ordering the Myo armband in February 2013 for $149 + shipping, it only arrived in the first week of December. The kid never misses the fun of getting a new toy and it was no different with Myo armband.

The first step was the unboxing of the armband. The packaging was quite simple and compact with no frills. Packed in standard brown courier box was the elegant looking plastic casing securely holding the — Myo armband. The armband which looked like a design from a sci-fi movie had rubberised material on top with sensors located underneath. These sensors detect the electric signals from the arm muscles via EMG.

1 — Black or White Myo Armband

1 — Standard Micro-USB Cable

1 — Bluetooth Adapter for Mac and Windows PC Connection

10 — Myo Sizing Clips

The setup was quick using the Mac OS X specific Myo Connect application available from the download section on www.thalmic.com/start. Followed the setup instructions available in detail here. The armband is always ON and hence there is no power button. The moment it’s worn and the Myo Connect application is launched, it’s detected and activated. Currently the armband supports limited gestures detected by the sensors.

The first few hours were challenging as it’s a new piece of technology with no buttons and practicing to master the gestures isn’t like a piece of cake. Once I got the hang of it, performed a short demo exclusively for my team at work to showcase the gesture based communication with PowerPoint, iTunes and VLC player on my Macbook. During the demo switched presentation slides and controlled media — play, pause, forward, rewind and volume up/down.The first reaction of them being Awestruck was quite anticipated and expected.

Here is a quick hands on demo of the armband in action with PowerPoint and VLC player.

Note: Myo armband reacts to unique gesture patterns of an individual. If a new user tries the armband, it needs to be calibrated every time for the optimal performance.

The battery life though stated to last for a day on single charge is quite user dependent. Since the armband is always ON, the battery usually lasted me for a few hours during continuous testings and about 3 days on standby.

Myo Market

Myo Market is like a plugins store for the armband. After the initial setup is completed the user is taken over to the store which is hosted at — Myo Market. Myo armband is currently in an evolving technology ecosystem and thus the Market is in Beta stage with limited plugin support for about 36 applications/games like:

Presentations: PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi and Adobe Acrobat

Media: Netflix, Spotify, iTunes, VLC

Games: Audiosurf, Race the Sun, Kerbal Space Program etc.

Mobile Plugins: Myo Dialer, Myo Music, Myo Tasker Plugin, 2048 Myo Edition etc.

Lately, the plugin for Web Browsers Navigation have also been added. This enables support for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

The Market also mentions about the future support to be available for various applications and devices.

Conclusion

To conclude this rather long write up, the take away points for the Myo armband are:

  1. Myo armband is a ground breaking technology, currently at a very nascent but evolving stage
  2. First of it’s kind to detect electromyography signals from the muscles and translate those into user actions
  3. Currently the armband is compatible with: Windows (7 & above using the included USB bluetooth adapter), Mac OS X (10.8 & above using the included USB bluetooth adapter), Android (4.3 and above with Bluetooth radio that supports Bluetooth 4.0) and iOS (7.0 & above)
  4. The armband is always ON, so any moment of the band even when packed in the bag consumes battery
  5. The armband needs to be in contact with the skin directly and should be worn between the wrist and elbow
  6. It requires calibration for every new user or when switching between users for optimal performance
  7. Myo Market is accessible at https://market.myo.com and in currently in BETA stage with more and more plugins added regularly
  8. Pre-Order your Myo armband at www.getmyo.com

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