Canadian company Thalmic Labs attracted millions of potential customers last February when it introduced a video for the Myo armband, which lets you control electronic devices with simple hand and arm gestures. The original video, which Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called “very cool and impressive,” is embedded below. Thalmic is venture backed and launched last February.
Thalmic Labs shipped its initial batch of Myo armbands for developers last December (those were the “alpha” designs), but the company said it delayed Myo’s public launch because the team wanted to make significant improvements to the industrial design.
“We started last fall, around October, redesigning the industrial design,” Stephen Lake, co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs, told Business Insider. “We wanted to make it more durable, thinner, and reduce the complexity that made it something more manufacturable. One of the big challenges is making a one-size-fits-all that will also be slim. We didn’t want to make multiple sizes, but to meet that constraint the original product had a complex mechanism that made it bulky. We decided that wasn’t the quality we wanted to release.”
Earlier this month, Thalmic showed off the "final design" for its Myo armband, which features a thinner, stretchier design: It looks like a series of small black rectangles connected by flexible rubber cables on the top and bottom that can stretch out or contract like an accordion, depending on your arm size. The latest version of Myo is also roughly half the weight of the alpha design.
The technology that makes Myo possible — electromyography (EMG), which doctors and scientists use to record electrical activity from muscles — is something Lake and his Thalmic Labs co-founder Matt Bailey have been experimenting with since their undergrad years at University of Waterloo, where the two tinkerers worked on a wearable device that could help blind people navigate using sensors. Lake said he felt there was a “major gap” in enabling wearable technology because there wasn’t an interface that was good enough.
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