Interview with Stephen Lake, CEO of Thalmic Labs

We had the chance to interview Stephen Lake who was named one of Canada’s Top 20 under 20 in 2007 and one of the Next 36 entrepreneurial leaders of Canada in 2011. He has a degree in Mechatronics Engineering from the University of Waterloo, a certificate in Entrepreneurship from the University of Toronto, and has studied as a visiting scholar at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). He was an entrepreneur from a young age, attaching LED lights to radio-controlled trucks and selling them at age 13. Learn more about Thalmic Labs latest development:

1. Where did the idea for the gesture control device MYO come from? Was Thalmic Labs founded because of MYO or what is the background story of your company?

Thalmic Labs was established after Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant came up with the idea behind MYO. They share a thesis that we are moving towards a new era of computers, where the lines between man and machine are becoming more blurred. Building on work in the area of wearable technology that Matthew and Stephen had done previously, the idea for MYO was born out of fundamental question: How do we connect the real and the digital worlds as we move towards wearable and ubiquitous computing?

Their thesis was that, while much progress had been made on display modalities, interface and gesture control technologies weren’t up to the task: voice was out as people aren’t comfortable talking to themselves in public and camera-based systems aren’t suitable for mobile environments.

By combining expertise in biomedical engineering, electronics, and machine learning, the initial proof-of-concept for MYO was created in Spring 2012.

2. With over 25,000 preorders in the first month of the launch on your website the product has been a great success already without even being on the market yet. Is the shipping date in early 2014 still realistic and what will people be able to control with the device?

We launched the pre-orders as a way to measure the demand for MYO and were delighted by the mass amount of orders we immediately received. We’re currently aiming to have the first batch of MYOs shipped out in late 2013. For those who placed their orders after mid-March, they’ll be included in the second batch, shipping early 2014. With any form of production, setbacks along the way are possible, but we’re on track to ship the first MYOs later this year as planned.

3. Windows and Mac OS are fully supported by the MYO, plus APIs will be available for iOS and Android. Do you think interoperability between different devices will be one of the most important factors making wearable technologies a mainstream success?

Definitely. Today, everyone wants to be able to seamlessly incorporate technology into their lives in order to make their day-to-day activities more efficient and simplified. With wearable tech, we think this interoperability is of even more importance since the whole idea behind it is to connect you directly with the technologies that you use on a daily basis.

4. What are the craziest application ideas developers came up with so far for your device? Are the developments mostly gaming oriented? What other application areas came up or could you imagine?

We get a lot of frequent suggestions from both developers who are eager to start their work with MYO and external communities with suggestions for MYO’s potential uses. Gaming is, of course, one of the ones we hear the most often. We also get quite a few inquiries about development for industrial purposes, health care, teaching, music creation, and business presentations. Individuals from the sign language, amputee, and multiple other limited communication/movement communities have also approached us with the hope that MYO can overcome the daily obstacles sometimes faced by those with certain disabilities.

We’ve had quite a few people wondering if they could wear a MYO on all four of their limbs at the same time…not too sure what they’re planning to accomplish with this, but if they could make it work, we’d be interested to see the results!