AppCannon Software is a small software development company that specializes in alternate human-machine interfaces, including both gesture and voice interaction. It had been a one man operation for many years, although recently its founder Adam Gastineau has begun building a team of developers and designers to help him in his pursuit of building high quality products. We got some time to ask Adam about how he’s using his Myo Alpha unit and what he’s looking forward to seeing from wearable technology in the future.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment, our main focus is on Project Prompt, a home automation software platform designed and built to work with virtually any internet connected device. Users can quickly and easily customize Project Prompt to perform many different tasks using pre-built and custom made modules, called Prompts. Project Prompt is not specific to any home automation platform; if it connects to a computer somehow, it can be made to work. This means if you have different brands of smart light-bulbs in the same room, you can turn them all off with a single press of a button. No more fiddling with different company’s apps and interfaces.
Project Prompt makes heavy use of alternate human-machine interaction devices such as speech synthesis and the Myo. Of course, if you want to use a keyboard and mouse, you can, but Prompt is made most useful by the ability to avoid the computer all together. Using the Myo and speech synthesis, you can be on the opposite side of your house from your computer and still be fully aware of what a gesture will do at any given time.
Check out and support Project Prompt on Kickstarter for updates, early access, and discounts.
What have you built for the Myo armband?
Project Prompt emerged as an experiment in dealing with the Myo as a control device. We quickly learned that including speech synthesis was a must, as more often than not, the Myo would be used where no screen was present. Aural feedback becomes very important when building applications for wearable technology, and as technology moves further towards consumer wearables, developers need to be considering the best ways to approach aural interaction without being invasive.
We have also experimented with different ways to use the data reported by the Myo. Trying to detect motion based gestures via the IMU data, such as taps on the device, making shapes in the air, etc., have been our main priorities, although this research has died down in light of Project Prompt.
How has your experience been so far with the Myo armband?
The Myo has been quite a joy to work with. We have done work with several other alternate interaction devices before and have noticed something rather interesting. With all these other products, we received them in later stages of development than when we received the alpha Myo, and yet the Myo has been by far the easiest to work with. It is one of the most intuitive technologies we’ve developed for and we’re excited about the possibilities for the distant future, such as the technology being embedded into a watch or similar device. In the immediate future, we’re looking forward to working with any new gestures the Thalmic team might add, along with developing stronger use cases for the IMU data.
What do you envision for the future of wearable tech?
Personally, wearable tech rather excites me, especially in the realm of smart watches. I have worn a watch constantly nearly all my life, and the utility of having information at a glance is fantastic. I actually wear a Texas Instruments EZ430-Chronos, which is basically a microcontroller development platform, simply because smart watches didn’t really exist at the time.
Many critics of smart watches argue that you don’t need a several hundred dollar device on your wrist for easy access to information; you have a phone in your pocket, stop being lazy and pull it out. Coming from a developer’s standpoint, especially as one who has been a web developer, there is an oft quoted figure stating that at around 30% of users will hit the back button if your website does not load within a few seconds. That few seconds is extremely important to consumers. Time is one of the most valuable commodities, and having information available somewhere on your arms instead of in your pocket allows you to get at that information more quickly.
Having a smart watch on your wrist also opens up or broadens the possibility for new interaction technologies. Obviously a Myo like device on your wrist would be fantastic, but my own personal wish is for proper voice interaction. I may just speak for myself, but I would love to be able to lift my watch up to my mouth to ask the Star Trek computer a question.
What’s one tech trend that really excites you?
Technology as a whole is in a very interesting situation at the present point in time. We have devices in our pockets that are powerful enough to handle the computing tasks of a normal user. We have consumer virtual reality products coming to market. We have devices that sit on our arm and allow us to move our hand to control our computers. We have companies springing up and being funding by communities of people thanks to services like Kickstarter and IndieGogo.
I think if I must chose one trend in tech that excites me the most, it has to be simply the preponderance of startups that are successfully crowd funded. It’s never been easier to get your idea out there, to find a team of people to work with you on the project, and to get the public donating money to your product. Situations like this is what drives innovation, not just in technology, but in all industries. New small companies are emerging every day with bigger, better products that make our lives easier, and that’s very exciting to me.
What’s one Myo application that you would love to see?
I see three main practical consumer applications for the Myo. The first is casual, OS level computer control (somewhat similar to what we’re doing with Project Prompt), and the second is interfacing with other wearable devices, such as smart watches or preferably head mounted displays like Google Glass. The third is in the realm of virtual reality, and I think this is where the Myo will really shine. Virtual reality is quickly becoming accessible to the everyday person, and I believe the Myo will be helping push that trend along. I can’t wait to see what amazing things game developers do with the Myo.
*Your Kickstarter campaign starts today. What are you expecting to learn about Project Prompt and its potential end users?
I’d have to say the most important part of our Kickstarter campaign is learning about people. What people expect, what people want to see, what excites them, etc… This takes even higher precedence than the money, as, even though the Kickstarter funding is necessary for the further development of Project Prompt, the concerns of consumers are much more important.
We hope to learn what people want to see Project Prompt evolve into. As we are presenting a platform with so many options, we want to see where the majority wants our focus placed, so that we can deliver a better product. We’re interested in seeing the community that might spring out of Project Prompt, building new modules, working with our APIs, and generally building upon Project Prompt.
Whether the Kickstarter project succeeds or not, we walk away from the project with knowledge, and knowledge is the most valuable thing anyone can own.
What are your three favorite online tools?
The following three tools are only a small sampling of what I use regularly, but they all have a huge impact on my work:
- Stack Overflow – Stack Overflow is a crucial tool for all of our development work, from research to implementation.
- IFTTT – Although I don’t use IFTTT extensively, I love the idea. It brings the internet as a whole closer to the idea of an Internet of Things. We will possibly being adding IFTTT support to Project Prompt in the future as well.
- Feedly – I was a huge fan of Google Reader in the years before it was discontinued. Feedly has become my tool of choice for staying caught up on everything that is happening in the tech world.