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We give the Myo gesture-control armband a try

Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs, helps demonstrate the company’s Myo armband device at his office in Kitchener, Ont.

Patrick Dell/The Globe and Mail

In June, 2013, Thalmic Labs said it already had 30,000 pre-orders for its Myo armband. This fall, the product will finally be in the hands of consumers, about two years after the idea was born.

"I like to think two years is pretty damn fast if you look at product development cycles," CEO and founder of Thalmic Labs Inc., Stephen Lake, said in an interview this week at the company's office in Kitchener, Ont.

The Myo is a gesture-control armband that recognizes movements from hands and fingers, then sends the commands wirelessly over Bluetooth to a computer, mobile phone or other device. Unlike a control system that uses a camera, the Myo is not limited to use directly in front of a screen. As Mr. Lake points out, it's for "walking through the world and interacting with things around you."

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On July 29, 2014, Thalmic Labs invited The Globe and Mail to its office to test the latest version of the hardware.

Mr. Lake cited a number of uses for Myo that go beyond the world of gaming.

  • While giving a PowerPoint presentation, users can walk around the room, drawing on and annotating a slide, or flipping through content.
  • Controlling music that’s playing while you’re walking through the house.
  • Integrations with software to do 3D modelling for engineers and architects, or designers.
  • Already in the pilot stage are customers using it with smart-glass-type devices, such as field service workers in oil and gas, or medical professionals, whether it’s a surgeon in the operating room viewing an MRI or CAT-scan image on a screen and interacting with it.

The company has been shipping an earlier version of the hardware to developers over the past six months, and it will send final hardware to developers shortly.

"We want to see a wide variety or a diverse set of applications from developers," Mr. Lake says. "The nice thing about it is that there are so many developers in so many different interest areas or specializations that are building applications in their niche or their area, and it's ones we don't even know about internally and wouldn't have built ourselves. So we have DJs using it and musicians to produce tools for other DJs and musicians."

When a Myo arrives in the mail, consumers will go to a website, download the basic software application, then go through a setup process, including how to put it on and how to use it. An application store called Myo Market will offer applications built by Thalmic Labs and third-party developers. Each unit will ship with a USB connector that has built-in Bluetooth capability.

The pre-order price is $149, and Myo will retail for $199.

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