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Myo arms you with muscle-based motion controls

Myo
Illustration showing the Myo monitoring the arm's muscles for signals.Thalmic Labs
The Myo armband.Thalmic Labs

Gesture-based games and controls like those in the Kinect hold a lot of promise, but the complex camera setup isn't always practical. A new device called Myo, however, removes the camera from the equation by reading the gestures direction from the muscles in your arm.

The Myo is an armband with tech built in that not only lets it sense its position based on movement, but actually monitors the neuromuscular activity in your forearm. Your muscles are activated by tiny currents that originate in the brain, and the Myo (named after the technical term for muscle tissue) can pick it up — sometimes, its creators at Thalmic Labs claim, even before the movement takes place.

By listening in to the muscles all around your arm and combining that with movement data, the Myo can recognize both sweeping gestures and smaller things, like the positions of your fingers. Paired with a smartphone or computer, these gestures can then control anything you like.

Illustration showing the Myo monitoring the arm's muscles for signals.Thalmic Labs

For instance, making a "stop" motion could pause the music on your PC, while snapping your fingers could skip a track. Or a wave to the right to advance to the next slide and a wave to the left for the previous one. Thalmic Labs' demonstration video (below) even shows a man using a Myo to control a robotic vehicle, steering by tilting his hand and stopping it with a raised fist.

Thalmic Labs designed the Myo's muscle sensors, and has been working on the product as part of the tech incubator Y Combinator's latest batch of startups. Details beyond price ($149) and launch window (late 2013) are scarce, but the company says there will be a robust developer environment and out-of-the-box capabilities that consumers will find handy, so to speak.

Pre-orders are available, though the site cautions that only a limited number of the armbands will be available, so if you're curious, you might want to get in on the deal sooner rather than later. More information will likely appear at GetMyo.com as the project develops.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.