LAS VEGAS - Motion controls are old hat for video game consoles, but getting them to work on PCs is another story. Enter the Myo armband, which recognizes simple gestures and uses them to control fairly delicate maneuvers on a computer screen. The Myo has a ton of potential for everything from education to everyday computing, but a few kinks need to be worked out first.
I donned a Thalmic Labs Myo armband at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015, and while my experience with it was mixed, it's hard to deny that it's a rather cool little device. The Myo is a rubber armband chock full of sensors that read the electrical impulses in your forearm muscles. This way, it can interpret very subtle gestures rather than just broad motions.
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To start, I played with a test video on VLC media player. The Myo is not active at all times, since that would wreak havoc on its battery life and interpret every time you moved your hand as an input. Instead, to activate it, I tapped my thumb against my middle finger. After that, I could play or pause a video by spreading my fingers, or adjust the volume by making a fist and rotating it from side to side.
Sometimes, this process worked well. Other times, it would pause the video every time I flexed my fingers to begin making a fist, or fail to register my thumb and forefinger coming together for activation. When the Myo worked, it was much faster and more convenient than dealing with a mouse, especially on a big screen. When it didn't, it was an exercise in frustration.
I also played Audiosurf, a popular rhythm game that challenges players to collect power-ups and dodge obstacles using music from their own MP3 libraries. By moving my hand from side to side, I could control my vehicle.
While I found the motion controls to be extremely sensitive, I got used to it pretty fast (and Myo assured me that users can adjust the sensitivity to better suit their own preferences). While it wasn't precise enough to control something like Call of Duty, the Myo representatives believed that it could popularize casual PC games like the Wii popularized casual console games.
The Myo costs $200, and is now shipping for people who preordered one. Latecomers can grab one through Amazon later in the first quarter of 2015. While it didn't work perfectly for me, I also did not have time to run it through a proper calibration or adjust its sensitivity. We'll keep you posted if we get a deeper dive with the product in the future.