Wearable Tech – Testing Out the Myo Armband

I pre-ordered the Myo Armband well over a year ago. After multiple iterations and a period of time for developers, Thalmic Labs finally started shipping their first customer beta versions of the Myo Armband. The Myo allows you to control (soon to be any) Bluetooth devices via arm-gestures. As the marketplace/ecosystem grows (think the iTunes store), you’ll be able to control more devices with more gestures.

Initial Reaction: It’s pretty mind-blowing to control the devices around you without having to physically interact with each and every single one. I personally prefer to gesture control devices around me, as opposed to voice control devices. Gesture and voice control I believe will be the future of interacting with tech, but they each will have their places. For example, I’d rather voice control devices in a car, but would rather control a home entertainment system in my house with gestures. Though I do believe much further down the road, they will exist together, but for the foreseeable future, each will be relegated to their own applications.

Thoughts Going Forward: If you look up reviews on Myo so far, they are fairly mixed. But I feel the poor reviews are by people who have never worked at a hardware/software company before and don’t understand/appreciate how hard this stuff is to build. My take on the Myo is this a great step in the right direction and knowing that it will get better with time is promising. I compare it to the Rio PMP3000, one of the first MP3 players in the late 90’s. I bought this 32MB device and have the same feeling, the technology itself is extremely innovative, but there are glaring holes in the technology that you would assume be solved over time. I think we all know what happened with MP3 players in the few years after the PMP3000, with a little device called the iPod and a company called Apple.

How It Works: Out of the box, the Myo Armband recognizes 5 gestures: wave right, wave left, spread fingers, fist (with rotation left/right), and tapping of fingers to thumb. Once you’ve connected it to the Bluetooth device of your choice (Mac, iOS, PC, Android, with more to come), you make a gesture to activate the Myo Armband. From there, it’s best to let the Myo Armband adjust to your arm for about 2 minutes. After it has adjusted to control the device you’re connected to, you must “unlock” the Myo Armband before executing an action. For example, say I have it connected to my Spotify on my phone. To turn up the volume, I must “unlock” by double tapping finger to thumb. The Myo is then unlocked for roughly 2 seconds for me to begin performing a recognized gesture. Once unlocked, I make a fist and rotate it clockwise to turn the volume up. Once I’m done adjusting the volume, I return my hand to a “resting position” and the Myo locks again.

My Use/Thoughts So Far: In the first few days, I’ve been doing chores around the house while controlling the music on my Sonos system. It’s pretty awesome. The downfall of the Armband at this point are that at times it identifies other actions as the “unlocking” and/or one of the five recognized gestures, thereby doing unintended actions. My current workaround for this is if I know I’ll be active in the near future, I’ll move the armband to deactivate the connection. Then, next time I want to change a song, I do the syncing action, then can immediately perform the 5 gestures, as the Myo recognizes it hasn’t left my arm, so therefore doesn’t need the 2 minutes to sync.


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