The Myo effectively makes every screen a touchscreen. Ok, perhaps it’s a gross oversimplification, but if you’ve checked out the video and the article I wrote in February of this year you understand what I’m alluding to. The Myo slips over your arm and using a variety of sensors is able to translate your hand movements to gestures that can control your phone, tv, or computer without physically touching it.
Last week I “sat down” with the Myo team and peppered them with a number of questions in the hopes of getting greater clarity about the product.
Can you please tell us about the company’s founders (background)?
Thalmic was founded in 2012 by three engineers (Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant) who were in the same graduating class of the University of Waterloo’s Mechatronics Engineering program. Previously, the three had been involved in a vast range of high tech product development, from building software at Zynga, to designing surgical robots in Germany, to developing out-of-this-world lunar rovers at the Canadian Space Agency.
What was the genesis of the MYO?
The idea for MYO was born in April 2012 as the three sought out to answer a fundamental question: How do we connect the real and the digital worlds as we move towards wearable and ubiquitous computing?
Is the MYO technology proprietary or is it licensed?
The MYO technology is proprietary.
How sensitive is the MYO to movements?
MYO is able to detect large movements of the arm down to fine movements of the hand.
What’s the MYO’s battery life?
We haven’t released information on battery life yet, but MYO uses rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries.
Could the MYO be used as a sleep device?
This is not a focus for us, but there could be applications thought-up by third party developers in which wearing MYO while sleeping could be useful.
How do you negate false positives, such as someone scratching their face or other areas of their body?
Our machine intelligence and pattern recognition algorithms are complex and are overcoming these issues. For example, we use a specific gesture to enable and disable recognition, so that when users are not actively using the device it will ignore gestures and motions.
Can you compare the MYO to the Kinect and Leap Motion?
MYO uses EMG sensors to detect the movements of your forearm to communicate with digital devices. The issue with camera-based inputs is that it restricts the user’s movement and forces that user to stay within the confines of what the camera is able to see.
Can the MYO be used for gaming?
Definitely – we’ve seen a ton of interest in MYO for gaming!
How many units have shipped to developers?
We’re carefully rolling out our developer program and applications are open at https://developer.thalmic.com/. We’re still on track to ship the first units later this year.
What kind of apps have developers made so far? Can you give us some specific examples?
We have a long list of developers who are excited to develop for MYO, but have yet to announce a list of specific apps that will be available with MYO.
Can you speak to some of the hurdles creating the MYO?
We faced (and continue to face) all the same challenges entrepreneurs in technology companies face every day: developing the technology, funding development, finding a market fit, recruiting talent, and so on. Since we’re a hardware company, there are a few extra challenges we have to deal with on both the engineering and business levels – supply chain, quality control, distribution, and financing all this. One big challenge we faced was a technical one – existing sensor technology that picks up muscle activity signals wasn’t suitable for our application, so we spent over a year developing our own brand new sensor. The work has paid off: now we have a sensor that works in our demanding application, and we’ve generated valuable intellectual property and patents along the way.
When will the product ship to consumers?
We’ll begin shipping out the first units in late 2013.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about the MYO?
We’re excited to get MYO into our customers’ waiting hands. We’re still accepting pre-orders for just $149 at https://www.thalmic.com/en/myo/preorder/.