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Thalmic Labs’ gesture control MYO armband raises $14.5M, comes closer to fruition

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Hey recent college graduates, what are you doing this summer? If you’re the enterprising sort, you’ll start a company after graduation like the trio from the University of Waterloo and secure $14.5 million of funding in a year. You’ll be hard pressed to come up with something as unique as the MYO armband, though. Created by the newly formed Thalmic Labs, the MYO armband reads electromyography signals from your forearm and uses it to control your computer via Bluetooth connection. It’s gesture control with a more exacting, scientific twist. 

Started by three 2012 graduates of the mechatronics engineering program at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, Thalmic Labs eschewed the Kickstarter route for a slightly more traditional model of taking pre-orders and securing funding from venture capitalists. This past week, they closed their first round of funding, which netted them $14.5 million to be used towards hiring, doing more research and development, and producing the product.

Like the Leap Motion controller, the MYO relies on a user’s hand and arm gestures to control their computer, such as scrolling through a webpage or shooting an enemy in a video game. The difference is in how the action is executed. The Leap Motion controller, like Xbox Kinnect, uses a camera to detect a user’s movements, while the MYO detects fine motor movements. If it sounds like this is technology that can free you from sitting in front of a computer, it is. Thalmic Labs is planning on releasing an API for Android and iOS developers this summer to spur new uses for the technology.

According to TechCrunch, there are over 30,000 pre-orders for the $150 MYO armband (5,000 more than we spoke to Thalmic Labs back in April) with orders still coming in. In our interview with co-founder Aaron Grant, he noted that over 60 percent of their pre-orders were coming from outside the U.S., suggesting that there is a large worldwide interest in finely-tuned gesture control.

While the MYO isn’t scheduled to start shipping until later this year, you can check the armband in action in the video below.

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