This wearable sensor platform allows you to harness the power of muscle signals.
Using our muscles to control the world around us is something we are all accustomed to — whether that’s pushing buttons on TV remotes, pulling door handles or toggling game joysticks. But what if we could take those things out of the equation? In other words, what if you could remove the middleman by harnessing your muscle’s electrical activity, amplifying it and then converting it into a form that can be used to command an Arduino, a robot or an assortment of everyday devices?
Measuring muscle activity by detecting its electric potential is commonly referred to as electromyography, or EMG. The process has traditionally been employed throughout the medical industry, albeit not so much the hobbyist crowd. However, with the advent of the Maker Movement paired with rise of ever-shrinking yet more powerful microcontrollers, EMG circuits and sensors have found their way into all kinds of control systems. And so, MyoWare was born.
Now in its fourth iteration, the wearable muscle sensor platform enables users to measure the filtered and rectified electrical activity of a muscle. Simply stick the MyoWare sensor on a few electrodes and place onto a person’s skin. When the brain tells their muscle to flex, it will send an electrical signal to that muscle to start recruiting motor units — these are those groups of muscle fibers responsible for generating force strength.read the voltage out and start pumping up those muscles. The more a wearer flexes, the more motor units are recruited to generate greater muscle force. The greater the number of motor units, the more the muscle electrical activity increases. MyoWare then analyzes this electrical activity and outputs an analog signal that represents how hard the muscle is being flexed.
The latest version of the platform allows the sensors to be plugged directy into a 3.3V–5V development board, like an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328), and eliminates those pesky wires by letting Makers easily snapping the embedded electrodes onto MyoWare. Advancer Technologies has also added a secondary output for RAW EMG waveform, an on-board on/off switch and a pair of LEDs that will serve as a power indicator as well as a gauge for muscle flexing.
As any Maker knows, extending capabilities is key when a project is under development. And so, the team admittedly decided to take a page from the highly-popular Arduino platform’s playbook and incorporate shields into MyoWare. These modular boards consist of a cable shield for when embedded snaps are not suitable, a proto shield with tons of through hole pins, a power shield with two 20mm coin cell batteries to give MyoWare all of the juice it needs to operate, and a meter shield.
“The Mighty Meter Shield is what got us really excited about the prospect of shields. This shield takes the MyoWare output and lights up an LED bar depending on how hard you flex. The harder you flex; the more bars will light up. It even holds a 20mm coin battery so you can just stick shield+sensor assembly on your muscle and start flexing,” the team writes.
What’s more, the startup has been providing its sensors to several organizations to enable a range of impressive projects that are truly making a difference in this world. Take Limbitless Solutions for example, who has been able to craft 3D-printed myoelectric prosthetic arms and donate them to children in need. During their crowdfunding campaign, Advancer Technologies has committed to donating one sensor a child for every five backers of $25 or more.
Intrigued? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where Advancer Technologies is currently seeking $10,000. Delivery is slated to begin in July 2015. In the meantime, you can check out its earlier version on SparkFun here.