by Al Sacco

Smart Armband Maker Sets Sights on the Enterprise

Aug 19, 20144 mins
Consumer ElectronicsGoogle GlassHealthcare Industry

Thalmic Labs today announced that its gesture controlled Myo armband works with three popular smartglasses, and it partnered with a handful of companies to improve and expand Myo's gesture-based interaction with smartglasses.

Today Thalmic Labs, maker of the upcoming Myo gesture controlled armband, announced four new enterprise-focused partnerships.

Myo fits snuggly around a user’s forearm, and it reads a variety of movements and gestures and then translates them into commands. The company thinks Myo is particularly well suited for interacting with smartglasses in environments where users cannot or don’t want to touch their glasses, or where noise or other factors make voice control less than ideal.

Thalmic announced that Myo now works with three popular smartglasses: Google Glass, Recon Jet and Epson Moverio. The company’s new partnerships with APX Labs, Augmedix, Bridgit and Recon Instruments are all designed to bring that integration into the enterprise. (Both APX Labs and Augmedix were among Google’s first five Glass at Work partners, or companies that are certified by Google to build Glass applications for the enterprise.)

More specifically, APX Labs makes SkyLight, a piece of software that runs on Google Glass and connects it to enterprise systems. (I recently spoke with APX Labs’ vice president of business development about smartglasses and the enterprise.) Augmedix provides a way for hospitals and healthcare organizations to securely access patient information via Google Glass. Bridgit makes Closeout, a deficiency management software for glasses that’s designed to respond to miscommunication issues on construction sites. And Recon Instruments makes Jet, a set of smartglasses with a heads-up display.

“Smartglasses remove barriers to accessing the information and communications needed to effectively and efficiently perform the job at hand. Now, the Myo armband frees up your hands to unlock the full value of smartglasses,” said Stephen Lake, CEO and co-founder of Thalmic Labs, in a press release. “The Myo armband uses subtle hand gestures to instantly interact with applications on smartglasses, without needing to remove gloves or pull out a secondary controller.” 

Today, less than one percent of U.S. companies have implemented smartglasses, according to research firm Gartner. That number could increase dramatically in the coming decade, with as many as 10 percent of U.S. organizations using smartglasses in five years and half of all companies that could benefit from smartglasses distributing them to at least some of their employees within 10 years, Gartner says. Gartner also thinks smartglasses will begin to have a very real effect on the field service industry as soon as 2017, with a predicted $1 billion per year in related cost savings. 

Thalmic and its partners are attempting to ride that wave by addressing the significant hurdle of communicating with smartglasses in challenging enterprise environments. The video below provides a look at some real-world enterprise use cases for Myo and smartglasses. (Thalmic also posted additional videos on Myo and Bridgit, Myo and APX Labs, Myo and Augmedix, and Myo and Recon Jet.)

Interested consumers can preorder Myo for $150. It’s expected to ship in September. (An early developer version is already available for the same price.)

Of course, the value and ultimate business adoption of all of these offerings depends largely on ease of use and how well they actually work. The concepts are interesting, but if they don’t work well, people won’t use them — and they could actually be dangerous in certain work environments. It’s a bit too early to assess the value of the relationship between Myo and smartglasses, but it’s admittedly intriguing. I requested a review Myo armband to test along with my Google Glass, but Thalmic says it isn’t shipping them until next month. I hope to report more details on the actual experience after I receive an armband for evaluation.