Innovation

CES 2015: Myo wearable controls everything from robots to smart home devices

The Myo gesture-control armband eliminates the need for a keyboard or mouse in many instances. It will go on sale on Amazon by March.

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Thalmic Labs CEO and co-founder Stephen Lake demonstrates the Myo armband.
Image: Teena Hammond/TechRepublic

Myo, the gesture-control armband from Thalmic Labs, debuted at last year's CES but it's still garnering attention at CES 2015.

By March, Myo will be available for sale on Amazon, which will be the first time the device has been sold to anyone who didn't pre-order last year. It will retail for $199, up from the pre-order price of $149, said Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Canadian-based Thalmic Labs, who gave a demo to TechRepublic at CES 2015.

At this point, the device has been shipped to about half of the people who pre-ordered it. The earliest pre-order customers have been giving feedback to Thalmic Labs to improve the armband even further, Lake said.

Myo is worn on the forearm and it works by using a biosensor to pick up minute electrical impulses in the user's arm muscles. This gives the user the ability to wirelessly control and interact with computers and other digital consumer products around by using simple, intuitive movements such as moving their wrist, tapping their fingers together or making a fist. Myo also includes an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer, which allows arm and body movements to be accounted for as well.

Co-founder Aaron Grant demonstrated an early integration with Myo used with Sphero's new Ollie app-controlled robot. Normally, Ollie is controlled by an app on a mobile device, but the user will soon be able to wear Myo and use that to play with Ollie due to a new partnership with Sphero. The first preview will be available to the public within a month, Grant said.

Myo isn't intended to completely replace a keyboard or mouse, but it is intended to assist when someone is away from their desk, computer or need to be hands free. Lake said he wears Myo while running, and just flips through his music on his smartphone by gesturing with his arm. Lake also demonstrated how convenient it is for gaming, by playing a console video game without a controller, instead using hand and arm gestures to navigate through the game.

It's ideal for the general home user, Lake said. "One of the most exciting areas is this scenario," he said, indicating the living room of the suite he was sitting in at the Palazzo Hotel. "I'm sitting on the couch and hooked up to Apple TV or whatever. But obviously you don't want to have a keyboard mess in front of you. Myo gives you the 10-foot experience of controlling your computer and digital tech. The more advanced user would be using Myo for their smart home with connected devices and light bulbs," he explained.

Myo is also working with Bluetooth beacons to control specific devices in each room, and it's featured in the Logitech booth at CES 2015, to show how Myo can be used to control any existing home theater, Lake said.

APX Labs is one of the four partnerships that Myo announced last year, as previously reported by TechRepublic. Jeffrey Jenkins, COO and co-founder of APX Labs, talked about Myo during CES 2015 and why APX partnered with Thalmic Labs. Myo uses APX Labs' Skylight software platform to provide users with a hands-free solution for accessing information and applications.

"Direct gesture interpretation is very useful. It's a tool that we can use to enable a large array of different use cases," Jenkins said.

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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