Without having a dig at Tom Cruise, his 2002 film ‘Minority Report’ was not my favourite piece of work he has ever done. However all techie fans will agree that there was something far cooler than Mr Cruises’ acting and that is the future technology that the characters in the film use, more specifically the scene where Tom cruise controls the contents of the large digital screens by the use of moving his hands that feed off the electrical impulses used by the body. I know what we’re all thinking, pretty awesome but something that only belongs in Hollywood movies… Wrong!
A host of devices and approaches have steadily been announced that promise to break people free from being physically ‘wired’ to their computers. Now, a company by University of Waterloo engineering graduates brings a device to all you techie fans that could see a new beginning to how we operate technology in the future: an armband called MYO.
How many times have you been frustrated at the Wii or Xbox Kinect (controls that use cameras or electronic devices to judge your body movement) with the sluggish movement of the character you control or the delayed reaction to your control. Similar prototype devices have been developed by Microsoft, which holds a few patents in the field, but making a device with comparable accuracy to a traditional mouse has proved elusive. The new MYO device lets you scroll through a webpage by lifting and lowering the whole hand, or move between desktop apps by swiping with two fingers.
The armband may not yet have the accuracy of other new wireless products like the 3D mouse ring from Mycestro, but since there are more muscle signal generators than fingers in the body, myoelectrics may have the longer term advantage.
I think the important thing to recognise with this sort of technology is that the uses are not just limited to gaming via console or computing. Can you imagine a surgeon controlling robotic arms to perform operations or being able to control avatars through your movement to travel through inhospitable environments, walking on moons/planets with no atmosphere or oxygen. Even doing things in your daily life like switching off the TV or closing the garage would be an exciting experience. The potential of this product is only limited to the imagination of the human race.
Opertating systems like Windows and Mac OS will be fully supported, and APIs will also be available for iOS and Android. The MYO uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with the devices it is paired with. It features on-board, rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, and an ARM processor. The MYO is outfitted with Thalmic’s proprietary muscle activity sensors. It also features a 6-axis inertial measurement unit.
The device is available for pre-order with an expected release later in 2013. The device is going for $149 + $10 shipping (around £105). Release your inner Jedi and may the electrical impulse force be with you!