By Neala Berkowski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 4, 2014
Although it may seem like the technology of the Iron Man suit is generations away, students got a hands-on look at new wearable technology Thursday night.
Shift, a non-profit and living space centered on entrepreneurship, hosted this opportunity Thursday night at their house on Oxford Road. About 40 students tried on the Myo armband, which allows users to control their surroundings through hand gestures.
Business senior Alex Lee, Shift’s general manager, said the event was a way for students to preview the Myo armband before it is presented at this weekend’s MHacks IV.
“By having the event in a closed setting, it’s a lot more intimate,” Lee said. “It allows for better communication, and better understanding of what’s going on. If you were one in four hundred kids, you can’t really ask questions.”
Students first listened to Chris Goodine, the so-called “developer evangelist” at Thalmic Labs — the creator of Myo armband —, explain how the Myo armband works and watched him use the band to fly a small drone around the room.
Later, students were able to test out the Myo armband by putting it on their forearm and following a number of prompts on a computer screen. These included waving the hand left or right, touching the pinky to the thumb or putting the hand in a fist. The computer screen then showed the user what hand motions controlled things such as music volume and room temperature.
“Hardware is shifting towards getting input from the physical sense so it’s really interesting to see what startups are coming with right now,” LSA junior Robin Mehta said. “And we get a hands on experience.”
Goodine said the Myo armband’s name comes from the gesture recognition technology, known as electromyography. This technology is currently used in the medical setting for measuring a patient’s heart activity with electrodes, among other applications.
“Gesture control allows you to enjoy digital technologies with your hands,” Goodine said. “It’s a more natural way of interacting with everyday objects, so the idea there is just having the ability to do that in the digital world as well.”
The Myo armband picks up small electrical signals that are produced by muscles when they contract. Over time the Myo armband can adapt to the motion of the user's arm, giving them gesture control.
Engineering freshman Steven Schmatz said he attended the event to get a better understanding of gesture technology.
“The Myo band seems like a device with so much potential that you can use for hackathons, for example,” Schmatz said. “I think wearable technology is definitely going to revolutionize the way we think about our interaction with technology.”