This week Microsoft patented a device designed to capture a person’s movements – and it’s wearable. Microsoft already has the Kinect, which can pick up and mimic broad movements, but this newly patented technology would be able to pick up the electrical signals generated by a user’s muscle movements. Though I’m sure Microsoft will come up with a snappier name in the future, the patent application calls it a “wearable electromyography-based controller for human-computer interface.” From the patent application abstract:
Following initial automated self-calibration and positional localization processes, measurement and interpretation of muscle generated electrical signals is accomplished by sampling signals from the EMG sensors of the Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller. In operation, the Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller is donned by the user and placed into a coarsely approximate position on the surface of the user’s skin. Automated cues or instructions are then provided to the user for fine-tuning placement of the Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller.
Examples of such a device that Microsoft gives are an armband, a wristwatch, or some other article of clothing. The signals measured by the devices would be transferred wirelessly to a device such as a phone or computer. Or, I’m guessing, an Xbox.
Microsoft was careful in the application to mention how non-invasive the devices would be, at least compared to EMG measurements that require needles and such. However, I’m thinking Microsoft might be moving in the wrong direction here. The strength of the Kinect is that it doesn’t require a user to hold or wear any sort apparatus to operate it. These measuring devices would require a user to “suit up” to play a game. It’s the difference between walking onto a holodeck and jacking into the Matrix. I really hope users won’t have to look like Andy Serkis to play the Xbox 720.
Still, we don’t know what Microsoft has in mind for this technology. Gaming could be the furthest thing fron the inventor’s mind. I’m sure there are all sorts of creative ways to use EMG devices, such as for remotely operating heavy machinery or making delicate space station repairs from a surface location on Earth. What do you think Microsoft wants with wearable controller technology? Leave a comment below and let me know.