I pre-ordered two MYO armbands, and here's why

 I believe that knowledge is sexy.

Well, it started as one...

Back in February, as I was happily macking on some beef and broccoli at my local Chinese dive and flipping through the latest posts on Hacker News, I ran across a post about Thalmic Labs' MYO gesture control armband. Immediately upon finishing about half of their god-awesome promo video, I had an appropriately Nerdlovian reaction and went hunting for the Pre-Order button. 2 minutes and $149 later I had become one of the first human beings who will own a black MYO "later this year." After silencing any troublesome notes of impulse-purchase guilt through Facebook friend validation I happily returned to my sesame drenched meal and put the whole matter out-of-mind.

Five months passed. Babies were born. Nations crumbled.

 

Then I received an update

Hi there,

At Thalmic Labs, we're working hard to ship the first MYOs out later this year. If you placed your pre-order between February and mid-March, your MYO is in batch one, which will begin shipping later this year. If you placed your pre-order since then, your MYO is in batch two. You can modify the color or increase the quantity of your MYO pre-order [here].

Use Two MYOs at Once!

In certain applications, you'll be able to use two MYOs at the same time. And with all of the apps that developers will be building, we know you'll have an incredible experience with a MYO on each arm. If this sounds like something you're interested in, you can easily bump up your order [here].

Fuck. Me.

1 minute and another $139 later, I had ordered a second (white) MYO at a generous $10 discount without affecting my spot in line. Yep. That's $298 (including shipping) I've committed to spending on a product based entirely on two very sexy videos and a not-insignificant amount of hype. 

You're right. I'm an idiot.

BUT. I'm an idiot with a plan.

As you know, I happen to be more than a little into this whole self-tracking movement. The Verge recently did a great introductory piece on the most popular fitness trackers and some general QS philosophy. I particularly agree with their general assessment that this stage of the self-tracking movement seems to be about gathering the most amount of data with the least amount of interaction from the user. 

That's one of the reasons I still love my Nike+ Fuelband so much, and why I liked Moves so much until recently. Both tools gather a lot of data without me really having to do much. Like the NSA, I intend to hoover up and store most of this data for analysis at some to-be-determined point in the future, once my skills or the available analysis tools get better. For now, it's all about the data, baby. Which brings me back to the main thread.

The MYO is a self-tracking device

Thalmic Labs might be aiming their lead-off product at hardware hackers, game peripheral junkies, and extreme sports enthusiasts, but I believe they've got a self-tracking sleeper agent on their hands (or arms, as it were). Don't get me wrong, the prospect of maneuvering a quadcopter around like some cyber-punk Jedi certainly gets my nethers in a tizzy. But I get a kick out of casually using things in ways they were slightly not intended to be used, so the self-tracking potential excites me too.

We do a lot with our hands. According to Thalmic Labs' FAQ, the MYO "can detect changes down to each individual finger." So, given some crucial prerequisites (such as sufficient battery life, accuracy of muscle tracking, and depth of data access via the developer API), I believe self-trackers (maybe me, maybe others) could seriously explore some groovy questions given an always-recording two-MYO data stream:

  • How much time do I spend doing repetitive hand / arm activities?
  • Do repetitive hand / arm activities affect my mood?
  • Does hand / arm activity correlate with Fuelband activity level? 
  • What does a sign language performance look like in MYO data?
  • What does cooking look like? Working out? Climbing a rock wall?

Just for starters. I usually suck when it comes to brainstorming interesting questions. But I've found that oftentimes the coolest discoveries become apparent only after collecting the data and playing with it.  The important thing is to start with a rich, clean data set. Obviously, having two MYOs doing the recording provides a richer data set. So obviously I made the right buying decision. Right?

Maybe.

In keeping with another of my recent obsessions, I should emphasize that I could be wrong about all of this. I had a similar fixation with the Leap Motion after seeing its demo video last year. The Nerdlovian reaction, the impulsive pre-order, the months of waiting -- all of it. A few weeks ago, my Leap finally arrived in the mail. I took it out, set it up, and played with a few different Airspace apps for about an hour.

I haven't touched my Leap since.

So maybe I'm just constructing all these wild and crazy fantasies about the MYO to drown out a nagging inner suspicion that this is all dragon-chasing. There's a very real possibility that a few months from now I'll be right back here eating crow, wearing my $300 pair of glorified sweatbands with all the hipster irony I can muster.

But that's how the future goes

All of us in the self-tracking space, to one extent or another, are chasing dragons. We're looking for that elusive high that surges up when we use technology to discover something about ourselves that no one's learned before. We're groping to articulate meaning and significance in ways that no one's imagined yet. Ways that are intimate, visceral, and distinctly life-affirming.

The MYO is unlike anything that's come before, a glimpse of a possible future that (if it lives up to expectations) could push forward human-computer interaction and open new doors to self-tracking data sets never before accessible outside an academic research laboratory.

Let's do this, future! My arms are wide open.