Motion-tracking startup Thalmic Labs has been showing off what its early developers can do with a muscle-reading Myo armband and a little imagination, with the new peripheral already integrated with Oculus Rift, capable of remotely controlling mean-looking robots, and more. The company isn’t planning to ship broadly until midway through this year, but its Myo Alpha Developers program is underway, and already the ideas are proving diverse.
Gaming is one of the obvious routes for motion-tracking, with Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox One and Xbox 360 before it probably the best-known of the systems. Unlike Microsoft’s camera-based tracking system, however, Myo uses a combination of sensors to monitor physical movement and the electrical activity of muscles in the arm, so that it knows what the wearer’s hands are doing.
That means controlling games simply by waving your arms around – or triggering more precise features with the fingers – or even stepping into a completely virtual world. One Myo dev has paired two of the bands – one for each arm – with Oculus’ Rift so that the wearer’s real world movements can be mapped to navigation in-world.
However, there’s more than just gaming going on. Home automation, like pointing and “grabbing” at a light in order to turn it on, and gesture-based computer navigation such as we’ve already seen from Leap Motion are also being trialled. It even has potential for a motion-triggered camera, though of course that could be extended to just about anything you might want to control remotely.
Perhaps the most exciting implementation is seeing Myo hooked up to a Clearpath Robotics Husky robot. The gestures are relatively straightforward, like pointing forward to drive the robot forward, but it’s not hard to imagine exploring disaster zones or other inhospitable environments with a remote drone, using a combination of Myo and an Oculus Rift.
The Myo armbands are expected to ship later this year, and are currently up for preorder at $149 apiece.