Harnessing muscular activity to provide computer input has many advantages over Kinect-like devices that use cameras or inertial sensors. A new gesture-based wireless input device that works by sensing the electrical signature of forearm contractions is now available for pre-order from a new company for $150. The armband, dubbed the MYO, comes with a developer API that lets you fully utilize this sophisticated piece of equipment.
Similar prototype devices have been developed by Microsoft, which holds a few patents in the field, but making a device with comparable accuracy to a traditional mouse has proved elusive. The new MYO device, shown in the above video, lets you scroll through a webpage by lifting and lowering the whole hand, or move between desktop apps by swiping with two fingers.
Nature has not laid out the forearm musculature into an ideal X-Y grid for us, but with intelligent filtering, reliable signals can be captured from the morass of electrical activity each movement generates. Something as simple as balling up the hand to stop or start a track in iTunes, for example, generates signals that are highly dependent on the wrist position. When the muscles are already in a state of extension, the EMG signal does not map effectively to force output or position. Martial arts techniques, for example, capitalize on the fact that it is difficult to make a tight fist while the wrist in flexion to get attackers to release a weapon.
Story Source: John Hewitt, ExtremeTech