Back in 2012, when “wearable technology” meant battery-powered parkas to keep you warm or sparkling evening wear from Moon Berlin, Stephen Lake was developing technology that would blow away everything else in that industry.
When he wasn’t busy coaching the University of Waterloo Dragon Boat Club, or attending classes (yes he was an undergrad at the time!), Lake was hard at work changing the future in gesture control. Now we can purchase his MYO Armband at Best Buy or Amazon for around $200. From geeky undergrad to VC darling in just 3 years, he is the embodiment of ideation… in fast forward motion.
The mechatronics and kinesiology work Lake and two friends performed at the University of Waterloo during their undergraduate years forms the basis for the MYO Armband, which is now enjoying an incredibly successful launch period. Having moved quickly from design to production (the technology was sent to developers only 2 years ago), the MYO is on a fast track to change the way we do…well just about anything.
The MYO Armband looks like a chunky, mod plastic bangle, and is worn around your forearm just below the elbow.
Once in place, the armband is sensitive enough to know you’re going to move your finger before you even move it. That means the wearer can control any number of functions, which are transmitted via Bluetooth 4.0 to direct any number of applications, Tom Cruise-style (you remember the scene from “Minority Report”).
The snap of a finger or a wave to the left can control devices at the office, in hospitals, or in your car. It’s gesture control for any screen, and it stands completely on its own in the marketplace, unparalleled (at the time of this writing).
The idea of the MYO is cool, but the technology is what’s astounding. Most wearables exist as a by-product of the smart phone industry. That is, the processors and sensors stem from miniaturized technology developed for use in smartphones.
But MYO is not based on smart phone circuitry; its developers invented their very own technology from scratch. This explains why there aren’t currently any MYO competitors.
The sensors pick up electrical impulses in the muscles of the wearer and map them with common gestures such as hand waving (there’s also a powerful motion detector involved). The gestures are coded to actions which control any number of devices.
This is no FitBit. It’s not even comparable to the Apple Watch. Rather, it’s based on totally proprietary technology that signals a new generation of wearables…one where invention starts in the lab, from scratch rather than with stock silicon parts left over from the smart phone industry.
And of course there are hobby applications like controlling drones and playing video games. In fact, Thalmic CEO revealed back in 2013 that 40% of his pre-orders were from gamers.
There are important implications for doctors and professors of course, but the coolest use of the MYO Armband is one suggested in a three-year old concept video.
A downhill skier is approaching a big jump and uses the armband to switch on his GoPro. Then, after capturing his athletic feat on video, he uses a different flick of the wrist to share the file on social media, all before he ends his run down the mountain.
It’s the skier who represents the mass market potential for the MYO Armband. Once word gets out that the MYO allows one to promote oneself in new ways on social media, there’s no telling how big this may get and how far it will go.