After what felt like an eternity since pre-ordering (probably just 18 months) Thalmic Labs' Myo gesture control armband finally arrived. For my first post of 2015 here's a quick unboxing and first impressions walkthrough of the Myo, it's onboarding experience and a few of the things you can do with it out of the box.
Packaging was pretty tight, the Myo was well padded and the package didn't look like it took many tumbles on its journey to Australia.
The Myo was boxed in a small hard plastic container. Package design was minimal and had a good, solid feel to it.
The armband itself sits on top with all the accessories hidden in a plastic tray underneath.
The actual armband feels pretty sturdy, it's a combination of sensor blocks held within an expandable flex structure. It felt rugged enough to throw in your backpack without requiring a hard case or anything like that.
There were a bunch of signatures on the inside of the box. Not sure what the story was behind this, might be the team from Thalmic. If you know please post it up in the comments.
The Myo comes with a USB receiver dongle, USB cable and a collection of small clips that allow you to constrain the circumference of the expandable flex to help the Myo fit smaller arms.
Following the URL on the welcome card included in the box takes you to a download page for your platform.
Installing the software is painless and you'll immediately be greeted with a friendly configuration wizard.
The wizard updates on your screen as the computer detects each accessory you have plugged in, a nice touch - take note UX designers. There was clearly a determined effort to make this process easy and fool-proof for the everyday consumer.
After confirming everything is hooked up, Myo will prompt you to install the latest firmware update. Again the use of friendly messaging and animations made this whole experience painless. I can't stress how Impressed I was at this point.
You're then taught how to put on the Myo correctly via a video embedded inside the wizard. Again, clear and simple explanations, flawless execution of onboarding.
There's not much to putting on the Myo itself, just line up the logo so that it faces up towards the sky. It was a little tighter that I expected, you can certainly feel it's there on your arm, but it's not that heavy so that it's a burden. However, I'm not convinced I'd wear it around the house everyday.
Once you're wearing the Myo correctly it's time to sync it up with your device. Thalmic Labs have created a simple gesture for Syncing the Myo with any computer. It kind of looks like you're opening a door and pushing it open. Again, you are first taught via a video and then you are asked to repeat the gesture a few times and the wizard will give you feedback to ensure you are doing it correctly before it lets you continue.
The gesture itself is simple enough, I found it took me 2 or 3 attempts to get the Myo to recognise it.
Once you're sycned up you can start learning the Myo gestures. There are currently 5 gestures available to users and the wizard takes you through each one to ensure you can perform them before they let you loose.
I had a fair bit of trouble here, I just couldn't get 2 or 3 of the gestures to work. I checked out the support forums, and there was a bit of talk about custom calibration profiles, but because I was in the middle of the wizard I wasn't in a position to set that up yet. I ended up disconnecting and retrying the sync gesture. The second time around I was able to pass this screen, just...
Now that you are free to use your Myo the wizard presents you with a final task, to try and complete some basic controls in its training sandbox. This was a nice touch, and I never had any issues performing the gestures in this mode.
The Myo currently includes out of the box support for a number of well known consumer apps. I decided to try it out with Spotify. The Myo market page for Spotify includes details on how Myo integrates with the app and what gestures will perform specific commands. In this case Myo supported the following gesture/command combos:
At first I found the control gestures to be less than desirable.
A quick trip to the Myo support documentation suggested that I sounded like an ideal candidate for a custom calibration profile, so I went about setting that up.
From the Myo armband manager app you can select to make a 'custom profile'. The app will then open another calibration wizard which will help you create a calibration profile tailored to you. You can change between the default profile and your custom profile quickly via the armband manager.
The calibration wizard is simple enough, you enter some information about how you're wearing your Myo and then you're taken to a series of gesture recording steps.
Each step includes a video (you aren't forced to watch it) of the gesture. When you are confident you know how to perform you, hit space bar and the Myo will listen for that gesture to be completed.
Once the Myo acknowledges the completed gesture it will vibrate and confirm on the screen.
Once you've completed all gestures you must perform a final sync gesture and you're ready to use your new profile.
The custom calibration wizard also asks you to perform a relaxed resting arm motion, which I think helped in the fine tuning of the calibration. However, I suspect you must be careful when working with custom profiles, because if you were to record a really right fist when learning the fist gesture, then the Myo will expect an equally tight fist each time in the future. Finding that middle ground is key.
I ended up going back and recreating my custom profile again as I still wasn't happy with the responsiveness. This time I nailed it, the sensitivity was just right and I had no issues going back and controlling Spotify.
Testing the range on the Myo I was impressed to find it worked at quite a distance (around 15m+) and the signal travelled between the two floors in my apartment. This makes a stronger case for keeping it on your arm to control media in your house as you go about your day.
I went on to test a few of the other Myo connectors with my new profile, with varying degrees of success. I found the browser controller on Chrome and Safari to be a bit of a gimmick, it was cool, but it just wasn't something I could see myself using on purpose. iTunes was good, as was VLC. PowerPoint was a standout for me, as someone who often has to give a presentation in front of a crowd, I could certainly see myself replacing my Logitech clicker with my Myo, if for no other reason than the cool factor. Though freeing up my arm would be a win too!
Everything about the Myo screams cool. From the packaging, to the device design, hell, even their support forums and market site have an exception level of quality to them. I just wish it did a little more out of the box. That said it's early days and it looks like developers are already creating a bunch of cool app connectors for it. There's even connectors for games like Kerbal Space Program and Minecraft, so I might try them next and write up some highlights.
I'm sure 2015 will see a whole range of gesture control devices launch. We've already seen Leap Motion push out a big update at the end of last year and Logbar's Ring has now arrived. The Myo is certainly a contender, and seems to have the potential to lead the pack. That said, there's two things I'd love to see coming soon to really make this a killer product:
If you want to grab a Myo yourself you can preorder here from Thalmic Labs.