On a previous blog entry I mentioned that Myo could be an interesting device for bare hand text input. After being able to play with it for a while I can offer my first impressions.
The armband seems pretty well designed. It has no hard edges and the material feels good to touch. It is somewhat bulky and even though it is not heavy on the arm, the aesthetics might be more appealing to men. It also comes with small clips that you can use to tighten the band if you have thin arms. There are no buttons, just a USB connector for charging and a glowing logo in one of the pods.
The SDK recognizes five different hand poses: palm pointing left, right, spread fingers, fist and thumb to pinky. These poses can be combined with data from the IMU to create more complex patterns and detect movement. The API gives access to the pose detected, orientation data and the vibration motor. As we inferred the poses are fairly independent from the arm orientation, which allows more flexibility for design.
The quality of the built in classifier is also good for a first version. We noticed some false negatives and false positives with the former being more common. Sometimes you need to repeat the same gesture several times before it gets acknowledged. In our limited experience the pinky to thumb seems the most difficult to recognize, which also correlates with the fact of it is the less stressful pose. Left and right hand poses are the most reliable, they are almost flawless. People seems to hold different opinions regarding which pose is the most tiresome, but in general all of them seems less fatiguing than we initially thought.
In retrospect the engineers at Thalmic made a good choice in selecting the poses and the decision of shipping with only five of them was also wise. However, as a researcher I wish I could have access to more data. This would allow me to play with new algorithms or just select poses that make more sense for my particular task. I hope they change it on the future like Leap Motion did. It does not need to provide all EMG data, just the "tension" values for each group of muscles would suffice: palm, thumb, fingers. I do not believe they have constructed their classifier in this way but I think it can be done. This seems a good tradeoff between flexibility, simplicity and battery life.
As we spend more time with the armband we might need to adapt our original ideas for text input. If the gesture pinky-to-thumb end up being unreliable we might be tempted to remove it altogether from our design. The information from the IMU, on the other hand, may open more interesting directions for our work. We experimented with the rotation of the arm (roll), for example, and it seems pretty stable.
Summing up, even with the current limitations Myo it is a very interesting device. It is ready for some new cool interaction propositions. Anyone ?
Last year I wrote about how the Samsung's move into the smartwatch arena could be fruitful, despite the lack o appeal and technical issues with the first Galaxy Gear.
Today it has officially announced its sixth smartwatch model: the Galaxy Gear S. As Engadget has pointed out, in the last 12 months the company has launched the impressive number of 5 iterations/versions of the Gear. Until now the strategy seems to be working. Samsung has been responsible for 34% of the global smartwatch sales in 2013, followed by the Peeble (NPD).
This latest version seems very promising. A large screen, 3G connectivity, GPS, curved display, heart rate monitor and even a qwerty keyboard. In fact I think that it is quite cool. Relying on the same OS (Tizen) it inherits the app ecosystem from the previous generation of watches. Battery life is supposed to stay in the same range of previous ones: 2 days with similar processing power.
Sony has also announced its SmartWatch 3. Even though the hardware specs seem better than the Gear S, the design just feel uninteresting. Moto 360 feels much better in this respect.
Update: Moto 360 has launched with a round backlit LCD, Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor and inductive recharging dock. However, its biggest selling point is the beautiful design. The LCD circular display and stainless steel body makes the watch elegant and sophisticated.
Even though the 360 has its charm, it think that being able to stay way from google, the better connectivity options and longer battery live, would make the Gear S my choice.
Every one is talking about how wearable computing might hamper smartphone growth and how big the market is supposed to get in a few years. We have been hearing rumors from possible smartwatches coming from Apple, Google and Microsoft.
While everyone expects the iWatch, Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Gear. There already several other smartwatches on the market but Samsung is going to be the biggest electronics manufacturer to get into market. Sure Sony has already launched their watches and nobody noticed.
There have been many articles pointing out how the Gear is poised to failure. There have been critics about how it looks unappealing, about the lack of integration with other devices besides Galaxy Note III, about the sluggish software, about the strip and so on. In fact they might have passed on the chance of winning to apple or even Microsoft. However they already have launched and may be already working on version 2.0.
Being the first on the market can have its advantages if you manage to play well. Samsung indeed knows this. Besides being able to improve the project and learning how people use the device, they will also start to grow a application library before the others. We have seen this work very well for apple before. The design has a lot of issues that will make this watch hard to appeal to the general public, something that Samsung has somewhat achieved with the galaxy phones series. I have the impression that it was rushed to the market (the peeble for instance, seems much nicer).
Qualcomm also revealed its own smartwatch, called the Toq, on Wednesday. Like the Galaxy Gear device, the Toq syncs with a user's smartphone to display alerts. For now it only works with Android devices, but Qualcomm may extend the connectivity to work with Apple's iOS as well. The Toq is priced at $300 and is available for pre-order immediately, but is scheduled to hit the market Oct. 10.
if you want to see the current and future competition smartwatch.fm has a nice catalog.
Update: The gear has sold a modest amount of units and has received some software updates. Lets see if they will continue investing or will just wait for apple move (if there will be one).