Health Technology Update: MYO!
Written by: Aimee Zellers
“Wave goodbye to camera based gesture control.” This catchphrase is used by Thalmic Labs, a Canadian based company, to describe a new way to use gestures to control external objects. Rather than relying on cameras to sense and register movement like many gaming systems and other existing technologies, MYO is an armband that uses electromyography which allows users to control computers, toys, and other devices the armband can be paired with. This basically means that the armband is using electrical activity in the arm and hand muscles to wirelessly control digital technologies, like computers and phones. MYO senses gestures and movements in two ways; muscle activity and motion sensing. The device is so precise when sensing muscle movements, through a 6-axis inertial measurement unit, that it can detect changes in the hand and of each individual finger. And when it senses the location of the arm in space, the device can detect movements in all directions. Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology allows the armband to pair with any number of digital devices to give the user optimum wireless control with just the flick of a wrist.
Non-medical practical applications include using MYO to control presentations, create and edit videos, play games, browse the internet, listen to and edit music, and since it can be paired with any Bluetooth capable device, the opportunities for integration are truly endless.
While this may sound like a fun new toy for the tech savvy gadget collector, it also has some very important health applications. Devices like MYO give many disabled individuals the ability to complete basic tasks that would otherwise be impossible for them, by making use of muscles they have the most neurological control over. This in turn increases their overall independence and quality of life. A handicapped individual may not have the strength to pick objects up and manipulate them, but with MYO they wouldn’t have to physically manipulate anything beyond their own arm and hand. It is also possible for healthcare professionals to utilize this technology in the clinical setting. For example, MYO would give them the ability to manipulate radiological images during surgery without the need to physically touch another device. Thalmic Labs goes out of their way to encourage developers to come up with innovative ways to adapt MYO. It will be very interesting to see how this technology is adapted in the clinical setting.
MYO can be pre-ordered now for the mere price of 149.00 USD. Limited quantities will be available for shipping in late 2013.