Using a computer mouse — and even using our fingers to tap on our phones — may be actions of the past sooner than you might think. Voice control is blowing up thanks to Apple’s purchase os Siri a few years ago, it’s subsequent integration into all things Apple (I’m loving it on the new Apple TV by the way) and the AI arms race that ensued between Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others. But gesture-based control is another computing revolution that, while still in it’s infancy, is showing lots of promise.
One device in particular — the MYO Gesture Control Armband — is pretty mind-blowing when you realize the possibilities and potential. It’s an armband that can interpret muscle movements in the thick part of your forearm and turn them into signals your computer or phone can read.
In this review I’m going to get into what it can do, how well it works and how comfortable it is to use. At the end I’ll also give you a recommendation as to who should consider buying a MYO.
Uses and apps
The MYO is in early stages — that much is made plain by what the device can currently do which is a lot or a little depending on who you are. For teachers and presenters and owners of certain drones, the MYO is very useful and capable. For everyone else, it is a cool device with some interesting abilities but perhaps lacking of a killer feature (at least at the moment — I expect very big things to come from MYO in the future).
MYO’s most accessible feature at the moment seems to be controlling media via apps like Netflix, Spotify and iTunes. You can use MYO to play/pause and scrub through videos on YouTube as well.
MYO’s most useful function is the ability to control PowerPoint and Keynote presentations without the need for a “clicker” or mouse or a third-party to advance slides on your behalf.
MYO’s most fun application is probably piloting drones. With MYO you can control some Parrot and Sphero drones which makes a pretty awesome alternative to using a clunky handheld controller.
MYO also makes an interesting computer mouse. It’s an interesting use of the device, but not yet practical for everyday living and working. It’s just not as quick and precise as using an actual mouse or trackpad.
But there are a few fun games that support MYO control. You can use it to play Fruit Ninja on a PC or Counter Strike and Minecraft on both PC and Mac platforms.
So that’s really the gist of what is possible with MYO right out of the box at the moment (without being a programmer and creating your own ingenious uses).
MYO has created an app marketplace where you can browse through various software developers have made available for the device. It’s a nice, easy-to-use store — and everything I ran into thus far has been free to use.
Now lets talk about how — and how well — it actually works.
How it works
The MYO works by understanding 5 main gestures. A fist, open fingers, swiping right and left and finger tapping (or finger clicking which happens by putting your middle finger or fingers together with your thumb).
The basic gestures register consistently, but there’s definitely a learning curve. If you buy this, you’re definitely going to need to commit to training yourself and being a little patient.
Closing a fist to left-click on a link in your browser, for instance, isn’t as easy as it may sound. Making a fist is easy enough, but keeping the mouse aimed at the link while you do it is what takes practice.
Actions that require less precision are what tend to fall into the MYO’s sweet spot. Fast-forwarding music or a video, for instance, or advancing a slide in a presentation work nicely.
Personally, I won’t be using the MYO as my computer mouse or game controller — at least not this version. And that’s okay; MYO has some definite use cases that it seems custom-made for.
Setting up the MYO takes a solid 10-15 minutes, but it’s not hard at all. You’ve got to install the software on any devices you want to use MYO with: your phone or computer — or, if you’re enterprising, your Apple TV. Then you’ve got to pair it, update it and configure it. The bundled software is excellent and well-produced making setup a breeze. Finally you’ll get some guided instructions and tutorials to show you how to use MYO.
What it’s like to wear
The MYO needs to stay in direct contact with your skin in order to read gestures. And more than that, it needs to be pretty snug. If you’re worried your arms may be too small, don’t be; MYO ships with some adapters that can tighten the band.
For me, using the MYO right out of the box (no need for the adapters), I thought the band felt rather tight. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but I can’t see wanting to wear it for more than an hour at a time.
Conclusion and recommendation
The MYO is a really cool device. At this point I’d say it’s more cool than useful — but that ISN’T to say it’s not useful because is it. If you consider yourself an early adopter who loves to show their friends and family the latest technology has to offer you’re really going to love the MYO. If you’re a professor or other sort of professional speaker — if you live and breathe Keynote, PowerPoint or Prezi — then the MYO may indeed be your latest must-have product. If you’re a drone enthusiast you may also enjoy the MYO.
This certainly isn’t a device for everyone yet, though it’s well on it’s way to becoming something more indispensable. Still, it’s a jaw-dropper in terms of sheer coolness.