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September 19, 2013

With No Camera Required Armband Converts Gestures Into Controls

The Future of Entertainment series iQ by Intel and PSFK Labs is highlighting the latest in entertainment innovation. Over the course of 10 weeks at, we are showcasing new products, services and technologies, exploring the changing face of how we consume, share and create content and getting reactions from Intel experts.

In our final week of The Future of Entertainment series, PSFK and iQ are surveying the current rise of the trend Wearable Interfaces, examining how wearable technology is changing the way people interact with the world around them. Developers are leveraging the lowering costs of processors combined with the power of complex sensors to create electronic devices with new form factors that seamlessly fit into users’ lives. 
The Tom Cruise action-thriller Minority Report, made in 2002 and set in 2054, envisioned a world where people spoke to computers and controlled them with a swipe of the wrist. We only had to wait ten years for the science fiction imaginings to become a reality, with gesture recognition, and more recently wearable tech, blurring the lines between digital interfaces and human commands to making communicating with machines easier than ever before.
With their new device, Canadian startup, Thalmic Labs, have created a wearable interface that gives everyone a taste of the fictional universe proposed by Minority Report, sort of. MYO is an armband that enables users to control computers, phones, and other devices with simple, intuitive hand gestures. Unlike other gesture-controlled devices we’ve seen in the past, MYO does not require the addition of a camera, and therefore does not limit the wearer to a confined space. 
MYO works by using motion sensors that register the movement of the wearer’s arm, as well as electrodes that sense the arm muscles’ electrical activity to differentiate between up to 20 gestures, which even include small movements of the fingers. The armband connects to a computer or other smart device via Bluetooth, so that users can swipe through internet pages, turn the volume up on their music up and even play games. Since it is not limited to a specific place, a person can wear the MYO device all the time, using it as naturally as they would standard gestures like pointing or waving. Having sold over 30,000 units set to ship in 2014, Thalmic Labs is currently running a program for developers to let interested people put forth ideas for software applications, expand the seemingly endless amount of possibilities promised by the armband.
The MYO armband hits upon a huge theme of Wearable Interfaces and the Future of Entertainment altogether – that as technology improves, it is becoming an increasingly important part of the human experience in the 21st century. Developers are using wearable tech to enhance how we understand our surroundings and ourselves in a never-before-seen integrated way. MYO takes a set of basic human movements and harnesses them to make communicating with computers an effortless process.
The company’s CEO, Stephen Lake, saw the potential of using natural movements to cross the digital divide. “How can you make technology an extension of yourself? By making it something that is naturally integrated with you all the time,” he told VentureBeat,“Our hands have evolved over millions of years to have incredible control and manipulate things. Now we are connecting natural sets of actions to the digital world. Suddenly, you have the power of the entire internet at your fingertips.”
The Wearable Interfaces trend is at the leading edge of what’s possible when the link between human and machine starts to merge. Check in tomorrow when PSFK and iQ assesses the behemoth of wearable technology, the oft-discussed, ever-controversial, Google Glass.

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