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.

4 minute read

A Recap of Our Very First Thalmic Hack'd

A Recap of Our Very First Thalmic Hack'd

Here at Thalmic HQ we’ve been working hard to ensure every aspect of your Myo™ experience is perfect. The work is undeniably fun and fascinating, but can also be challenging and demanding as we aim for the high standards we’ve set. Inspired by our friends at Shopify, we decided to give our team a chance to refuel their creativity with Thalmic Labs’ first internal hackathon, Thalmic Hack’d.


What was the purpose of our hackathon? Well, we wanted it to be a chance for our team to collaborate intensely and without interruption, to set goals that excite and inspire them, and to come up with something that they might not have otherwise had a chance to create. There were three rules:

  1. You have 30 hours to go from initial idea to final presentation
  2. The project should be useful: a new Myo integration, a cool internal tool, or office improvement
  3. Have fun!

We didn’t limit the event to our engineers and developers: we encouraged everyone to participate, and were amazed with the results. And so over a 30-hour period on a Friday and Saturday, our team came up with over a dozen new ideas for both the Myo armband and the office as a whole. Here are just a few of the projects we developed!


The Band

We saw a few variants on using the Myo armband as a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI). A group of our clever co-ops used only the Myo armbands and the air in front of them to simulate a guitar, a drum set, and a voice modulator, which made for an awesome take on an air band!

This team used the Myo SDK by mapping the orientation, as well as acceleration values, to specific notes for each respective instrument. The first instrument that they created was a drum kit. By mapping yaw and pitch values to specific areas in front of the user, they were able to assign certain regions to specific drums. Then, using the acceleration data they watched for the user’s hand to be in a specific region and moving at a specific acceleration – if both criteria were met the appropriate MIDI command would be sent in order to play the proper note.

The next instrument was the guitar. Similar to the drums, they used specific yaw and pitch values in order to map 5 strings near the users’ waist line. From there, they mapped poses from the other hand to specific areas on the neck of the ‘guitar’. This allowed the user to play a total of 20 different notes.

Lastly, they used the Myo armband’s orientation data in order to control the sound modulation/distortion tools with the music production software so that the user, in real time, could modify how their voice sounded. With this they were able to (for hours on end) fluctuate how much of chipmunk or robot someone sounded like. A terrific way to stay awake at 4 in the morning…


The Myo-Joy

One of our team members single-handedly set up his Myo armband as a replacement for the joystick. The idea behind this project was to make the Myo armband behave like a joystick so it would be easy to integrate with other programs. To show it off, he used a scripting program called Autohotkey to control a variety of programs including VLC, Chrome, and Paint, with only a few dozen lines of code. It was great to watch as he demonstrated the ways he could toggle back and forth between programs and control various applications all with the movement of his hand.


The New Employee

One of the most imaginative projects was the development of Gregor, the Room-Booking Butler. This software combines two pre-existing elements:

• Each meeting room at Thalmic has a Bluetooth-enabled tablet that displays that room’s calendar
• Every employee has been assigned a Myo armband, which is associated with his or her name in our database

Gregor uses the signal strength of the Myo armband you’re wearing to assess whether you’ve entered a room. At no point do you have to touch the iPad. Gregor even greets Thalmic Labs employees by name by looking them up in our employee Myo tracking spreadsheet! Gregor integrates the Myo SDK for iOS, our internal networks drive for the tracking spreadsheet, the Calendar APIs for room booking and lookup, and the iOS speech synthesis framework to lend him his beguiling British accent.

If you stay in that room for several seconds, Gregor will look at that room’s calendar to determine its availability, and will then ask (in a rather charming voice) whether you would like to book that room. If you make a specific gesture, Gregor will book the room for you, along with any other Myo-wearing employees present.


The Nerf Turret

Our hardware engineers decided it would be fun to have a Myo-controlled Nerf gun that could move around the office and shoot darts at their teammates. By using the Myo armband integration on the Raspberry Pi platform, they were able to wirelessly control a heavily modified electric Nerf gun attached to an RC car. The Nerf gun turret had full mobility in all directions, and was able to change the angle of aim, up or down, and the rate of fire, all with the use of pre-defined hand gestures.



Thalmic Hack’d was not only a great team building event, but also a reminder of just how much we can accomplish. We had a blast hacking away with the Myo armband and the SDK and we’re so excited to see what developers come up with once they get their hands on the units and developer documentation later this year.

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