North (formerly Thalmic Labs), the creator of the Myo armband, was acquired by Google in June 2020. Myo sales ended in October 2018 and Myo software, hardware and SDKs are no longer available or supported. Learn more.
Ask the creators -- Nico Göckeritz, Bernadette Krehbiehl, Mark Meyer, and their tutor, Roger Walk -- and they’ll tell you Terra is “an interactive, multilayer communication system.” In truth, it’s much more than that.
Simply put, these three students from the University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd have created a way to control information with your hands.
Employing a brilliant three-layered system, Terra organizes information in a tactile way. What sort of information? Well, any kind, but their demo raises awareness of the increasing problem of endangered species extinction. They see Terra as a tool for museums and exhibitions, but this promising piece of software solves tons of problems for gesture-based human-computer interaction (HCI).
Here’s how Terra works: the software has three “layers” -- global, forest, and species -- that take the place of structured menus. Each layer has “hotspots” that are easy to reach and grab, and the hotspots zoom you in one layer.
When I’m on the global layer, I can see the whole world -- and choose which forest piques my interest by grabbing it. In the forest layer, I can see lots of different species, and grab the one that interests me. In the “final” and most granular view -- species view -- I get richer gesture controls to really explore that animal. Statistics, facts, and photographs are all in the palm of my hand.
The layers act like gates for information, and make the experience of navigating content in Terra feel physical and intuitive. We caught up with the team behind Terra to ask about Myo, the future, and gesture control.
What are you working on right now?
Having finished Terra, our first Myo project, our next goal is to further explore the possibilities offered by this technology. We will be concentrating on concepts which can be applied not only to specifically designed environments, but seamlessly integrate into day-to-day tasks. Our next project involving Myo will be an experiment to integrate gesture control in future workspaces. We’re very much looking forward to this challenge.
How has your experience been so far with Myo?
Our first impression after unboxing the Myo was very positive. We really like the quality of the design. The synchronisation with the computer also worked quite fast, so we were able to experiment within a few minutes.
Since we wanted to use the Unity engine to realize our project, one of the first things we tested was the integration of the Myo in Unity. Being total beginners in both Unity and C# we expected a rocky start, but with the samples provided by Thalmic Labs and the simplicity of Unity we got started developing our own system easily. Throughout the project our experience in terms of development stayed positive and we appreciated the continuous support and updates from Thalmic Labs. We hope to see further improvement regarding the synchronisation process and usability throughout different people.
What do you envision for the future of wearable tech?
We live in exciting times. What appeared futuristic just a few years ago is becoming reality today. As interaction design students we’re in the lucky position of getting to help create this future, and to provide users new and exciting ways of interacting with their environment.
How will the world of tomorrow look? How can we make it possible for nobody to miss out on future developments? How can we make people’s lives easier? These are questions we ask ourselves every day.
We make use of new technologies, such as Myo, Oculus Rift, Google Glass and so on, to shape the world of tomorrow. We are looking forward to developments in this direction, many of them beyond our imagination. Wearable tech should integrate further into our lives, making daily tasks easier and more fun. Some of the criteria to achieve this: more convenience, more intuitive use, a fast connection to these wearable tech products, etc.
It is essential for every development to seamlessly integrate in existing workflows, so it can establish a place for itself in broad use. This market is just on the rise, and it offers possibilities not only for developers but also designers rethinking existing concepts. Looking back a couple of years, touchscreen technology was the leading trend. Now it isn’t a trend any more, it’s an establishment -- a convenience -- and we aren’t able to imagine a life without this technology anymore. We see wearable tech as a next step in this development, creating an even slimmer gap between user action and content reaction.
We’ve gone from needing to associate a button with a specific function to directly interacting with this function. So what’s the next step? We can only guess for now, but we want to make the relationship between people and technology closer.
Establishing wearable tech is the best way to do this and we’re very excited to contribute.