“You work at the place that makes that telekinetic armband thing? What’s it like there?”
It’s a question I’ve heard daily since I started at Thalmic Labs. I’m the newest guy at the company, and I was just as curious myself once; I followed the story of the Myo armband as closely as I could, and pre-ordered mine like everyone else.
To save myself a lot of time, I’m going to get ahead of the top five questions I hear most often.
1. Do people wear Myo armbands all the time?
Yes. It’s surreal. A company full of people walking around with Myo armbands on. They wave their hands in front of their computers and make gestures in the air like they’re casting spells to control the phones in their pockets. My first day, the company gathered for an all-hands meeting (Monday tradition) and Stephen Lake had his on. His empty hands magically took control of the presentation as soon as he started speaking and the dorsal hairs on my neck stood up. It was real, working, and right in front of me.
I’m still waiting for that feeling to go away.
2. Do you actually use it?
All the time. The other day someone at Thalmic Labs asked me if I wanted to try out the Iron Man simulator for the Oculus Rift. Try saying no to that offer.
At home, I watch Netflix with Myo armband control every night by plugging my laptop into my TV. If my girlfriend has a question or comment about what we’re watching, it’s amazing being able to pause in a half-second by double tapping and spreading my fingers. The command happens at the speed of thought, it’s like a shortcut between my brain and the movie.
I just ordered a Parrot drone too, so when that gets here my cat is in for a weird week.
3. Is everyone there a super genius?
Yes, and they have no idea. The weird thing about context is that if everyone is brilliant, no one is. Being a super genius is the norm, they don’t think it’s strange to correct a colleagues’ point by doing an absurd mental calculation. You can tell when you talk to them that they just have more RAM up there. They never pause to think. Divergent thinking is off the charts too, because Thalmic engineers are building a whole new way to interact with technology. They go straight from debugging code to wondering if it’s more fun to slash enemies with a monster claw or punch them with a robot fist.
Even as a person with absolutely zero technical skills I knew the answer was both.
4. What is the culture like?
Incredible. Nothing is off limits for discussion and no one is beyond reach. I had an idea for the product and asked Stephen if he’d hear me out, expecting that he’d be far too busy with speaking engagements, international travel, and the whole transforming-human-computer-interaction thing. He got back to me in minutes and booked a room to chat. I had been at the company about a week, and I’m a writer.
If you’re a writer who has tried to share a product idea with the CEO of your company before, your jaw is likely on the ground. Mine was.
5. Do you seriously think your armband can kill the keyboard and mouse?
No. Nobody here thinks that, that is an idea that comes from outside the company.
The Myo armband will never replace the mouse and keyboard because they’re designed to do different things. The keyboard and mouse are very good at what they do: inputting letter and number commands, and moving things on an x and y axis on your screen.
The Myo armband is a different kind of input for a different computing ecosystem. It doesn’t want to replace the keyboard and mouse, it wants to let us do things that a keyboard and mouse could never do: pause my music through winter gloves, navigate information on a kiosk with my hands in my pockets, play a videogame where I can look down and see both of my character’s arms in the game. It’s an imaginative product, and to understand it you have to think about the world differently.
Well, we do at least.