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Hands on with Thalmic Labs' Myo gesture control armband

Al Sacco | June 16, 2015
Today's world of wearable technology is packed with gimmicky gizmos designed to grab eyeballs and then quietly fade into cyberspace. Companies such as Thalmic Labs are working to cut through the noise and develop useful, innovative gadgets that demonstrate the promise of wearables to consumers and enterprises.

You need to calibrate your Myo profile only once, but you need to perform the basic sync gesture every time you start to use it. Myo uses only five basic gestures so it doesn't take long to memorize the movements. However, they can get confusing if you use multiple applications regularly, because gesture commands vary by application.

A Thalmic logo LED on one of the rectangles lets you know which side should face up and uses different light patterns to convey connection status. Another thin LED atop the logo shows a blue light that slowly fades in and out when you need to sync and flashes if it needs to warm up; it glows a steady blue when it's charged and connected via Bluetooth; it lights up solid orange if it needs to be charged or is charging; and a green light shows when it's plugged in and fully powered up. Myo charges via micro USB, and it gets good battery life. I used it continuously for an hour multiple times, and the status indicator never turned from blue to orange to signal low battery.

While Myo's current value is mostly in presenting and remotely controlling specific mobile and desktop apps, as well keyboard functions, its potential as an input system for the future wearables is where it could really shine. For example, Myo already works as hands-free controller for smartglasses. I wasn't able to test that application, but the basic presenter controls and Connectors I used seem like just a glimpse of what Myo could eventually do.

And it works with a wide variety of devices, including Windows PCs (Windows 7 and above and OpenGL 2.1 and above) and Macs (OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and above), as well as iOS (most newer devices running iOS 7 and up) and Android (v4.3 "Jelly Bean" and up) smartphones and tablets.

Myo is far from perfect, however, and I also have a number of gripes ...

Thalmic Myo review: What needs work

When using Myo for Presentations, I frequently have to preform gestures more than once to trigger commands, which draws attention from the task at hand and can be frustrating. By closing your fist you can trigger a pointer function to draw attention to specific sections of your slides. However, the vertical controls are inconsistent. Sometimes a slow lift of my hands moves the red pointer dot upward as expected, other times it shifts the dot down in the opposite direction, which is confusing and counterintuitive. I experimented with the band and its settings in an effort to figure out the issue to no avail.

I also move my hands quite a bit when I talk, especially if I'm trying to demonstrate something with conviction, and on a few occasions, I accidentally triggered different Myo functions. This made me think about standing still and not moving my hands or arms too much, which ultimately distracted me from the presentation I was making.


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