Myo is a gadget straight out of science fiction – a smart armband that lets you control other devices with the swing of an arm. Thalmic Labs, the Canadian company that created Myo, raised $14.5m in June. Here, we speak to the founders about how the technology works and whether we’re in a new era for hardware startups.
Hi, please introduce yourselves.
We’re Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant, the founders of Thalmic Labs. Our company was founded in spring 2012 when we came up with the idea of Myo. The three of us all went to school together at the University of Waterloo, studying Mechatronics Engineering. We all believe that we are moving towards a new era of computers, where the lines between man and machine are becoming more blurred.
How does Myo work?
Myo is worn on the forearm and senses the electrical activity from your muscles and the movement of your arm to control digital devices over Bluetooth.
What products, consoles and software work with it?
Myo will be compatible with Windows and Mac OS, with APIs available for Android and iOS.
Will it be easy for third-party developers to use Myo?
Our goal is to make developing with Myo as easy as possible. We actually recently wrote a blog post about designing the Myo API
But do we really need another controller device?
We believe that devices like Myo will make interacting with digital devices more seamless in the future. We think that the existing form factors will continue to evolve, and people will seek devices like Myo to help them manage their devices in an effortless and natural way. Myo is also the first wearable interface, meaning it is always available, and can be used in mobile applications.
Will customers really buy it for $150?
After selling over 10,000 units within our first two days of launch, it’s clear that there is great demand for Myo. In fact, the most common feedback we get is along the lines of “I can’t believe it’s that cheap”. It’s very advanced technology and we’ve worked hard to make it affordable. We last publicly announced that we had sold over 30,000 units of Myo in June 2013.
You received over $14m in venture capital funding. Even much-hyped smart watch Pebble “only” got $10m through crowdfunding.
Myo is the first product of its kind that will be able to seamlessly integrate with digital devices that you use every day. Investors see the impact that a company like Thalmic Labs can make, with Myo and beyond.
Why didn’t you try a big crowdfunding round for early coverage and loyal backers?
We wanted to establish our company and brand outside of a major crowdfunding site so we decided to launch our own.
We can expect more products than only the MYO with that big money in your pockets, right?
Myo is definitely the first of many products to come from Thalmic Labs.
You’ve said before that getting the money wasn’t hard. Are we in a new era where it’s easier for hardware startups to get investment?
Investors love ideas and entrepreneurs with big, disruptive and exciting ideas. Whether those ideas are hardware or software or something else entirely is less important. We’re really passionate about what we’re working on, and believe there are big possibilities, and the investors happened to agree.
Myo will present at this year’s Pioneers Festival. If you can’t make it to Vienna or wait that long, check out this video demo:
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