26.09.16

Amazon and Intel invest €107 million in gesture control

myo gesture control armband on man's arm

Companies including Intel and Amazon are rumoured to have just invested over one hundred million euro in helping gesture control specialist Thalmic Labs bring a VR controller capable of tracking the position of fingers to market.

If Thalmic Labs sounds vaguely familiar to you it may be because you recall their first offering – the Myo armband. Billed a gesture control armband to “give you motion control without the need for a remote, controller, or anything else you have to hold,” the results of the rather chunky device fell short of the expectation and there was no uptake in VR applications.

However, with €107 million (£93 million) in backing from Series B funding, hopes are high for the next device the Canada-based manufacturer say will “realize our vision for the next era of computing, where the lines between humans and digital technology become increasingly blurred.” Sounds fairly vague, right? Yet given the company’s latest branding is very VR-heavy, and word from a former Thalmic Labs is that the company is hiring people from the VR and human computer interactive world it seems the company are considerably ramping up their efforts in the virtual arena.

thalmic labs gesture control patent diagram

Investors including Intel Capital, Amazon Alexa Fund, and Fidelity Investments Canada have backed the company’s next device. This is rumoured to be a wristband that can sense individual finger-based gestures via integrated sensors. A patent called “Systems, articles, and methods for wearable human-electronics interface devices” filed by Thalmic Labs in June 2015 is thought to outline the technology behind the device. Described as a “wearable human-electronics interface device,” that can be shaped to encircle a user’s wrist and other appendages. Thalmic Labs state that the sensors are sensors are positioned so they are distributed over at least a portion of the circumference of the user’s wrist and each sensor is coupled with a processing unit to classify the signals received (meaning different finger positions produce different signal data).

The device’s transmitter is used to “transmit at least one interfacial signal that, when received by at least one downstream receiving electronic device, effects an interaction between the user and the downstream receiving electronic device” (i.e. a computer or phone). The sensors are made up of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), with microphones detecting the vibrations caused by finger movement.

As yet it is unconfirmed that Thalmic Labs’s recent investment will definitely fund a VR offering, regardless with this level investment the company should hopefully tackle its previous issues with accuracy and bring something innovative to the gesture control market.

Source: Road to VR