The giant enters the game, is the EMG Band the optimal solution for XR interaction?

Text / VR Gyro Laifu

Recalling the previous VR equipment, faced with various problems such as dizziness, poor picture quality, hot hands after a while, brick weight, and high price. These problems have been solved with the improvement of the industry chain and the development of technology. In the next two years, VR entered a trough again. At that time, the key topic was “how to let more people see and use VR”. From then on, VR began to pay more and more attention to ecology. With the popularity of Quest 2, the correct way for VR to enter millions of households has been verified.

In the messy 2021 of Metaverse, what are the new problems facing VR/AR? There is an interesting phenomenon, whether it is the Internet celebrity Musk or the social AI Zuckerberg, or even (from your pocket) the gold rusher G is fat, In the past two years, more and more attention has been paid to “interaction”. The three have entered the brain-computer interface through acquisitions and other methods. Zuckerberg has installed handy gesture recognition in Quest, and even HTC, which has been well-known in the VR circle, has also joined forces. Net, intends to update the voice interaction from the bottom. This has released a signal that in 2021, VR/AR may also include the next few years. The first problem to be solved is interaction.

Brain-computer interfaces are widely used, but they are still too far away from commercial use; the computing power required for gesture recognition is too strong, and how to put them in AR glasses is still a problem; voice interaction involves privacy and embarrassment in public places, and it is not friendly to consumers… In addition, there is a choice that is very windy recently-myoelectric Band.

Large overseas factories have recently launched EMG technology

Domestic development goes hand in hand and steadily develops

After entering 2021, Apple and Facebook have updated their trends. Zuckerberg is active in the media and has stated several times that he will continue to deepen the interactive experience in the VR/AR field, and believes that this is the next-generation computing platform. Apple is accustomed to “reducing first and then rising”, but the iteration of product hardware and technology can still see Apple’s confidence in AR, especially after the implementation of electromyography technology in hardware products this year.

In May of this year, Apple Watch showed the latest Assistive Touch (accessibility, commonly known as the white dot), users can operate the interface through gestures. Selection, sliding and confirmation can be achieved by simply making a fist, raising the wrist, and lightly pinching the fingertip twice in a row. Apple said that this is to help people with disabilities use the product better.

Source: VR Gyro

In the subsequent WWDC21, Apple further introduced the Assistive Touch of Apple Watch. In the introduction, you can see that even if you can’t use gestures, you can slide and stay to choose by slightly changing the angle of raising your wrist.

Just today, Apple exposed the latest patents related to systems and methods for determining the axial direction and position of the user’s wrist. The patent shows that Apple Watch adds multiple sensors, including multiple EMG (electromyogram) sensors in the strap part. This patent supports sports performance analysis, such as grasping sports equipment such as baseball bats, footballs, golf clubs, and so on.

In other words, Apple’s use of EMG technology has advanced from assisting people with disabilities to using electronic products to the field of sports and health. With Apple’s “step by step” style, it is almost certain that Apple is testing and paving the way for the use of EMG technology in AR glasses. External network analysts also said that this feature may be able to be used with future HMDs.

Source: patentlyapple

Coincidentally, in early June, Facebook revealed that it plans to launch its first smartwatch in the summer of 2022. Combining the news of Facebook’s EMG Band in March, it can be inferred that Facebook is focusing on using devices like watches and Bands as interactive terminals for future AR glasses-and this technology comes from the brain machine that Facebook acquired for $1 billion in 2019. Interface startup CTRL-Labs.

Similarly, starting in 2019, Google acquired AR glasses company North. After Inc, it has successively updated patents on the use of gestures and EMG functions in watches.

Source: patentlyapple

Let’s take a look at the development situation of domestic electromechanical technology. In 2013, there were two well-known companies in electromyography technology in the world, Thalmic Labs and OYMotion. The former is North. Inc, and the latter is the domestic arrogant technology. In 2016, Aoyi Technology officially released the beta version of its first myoelectric Band product-gForce EMG myoelectric Band, which also received widespread attention at the 2017 CES. In the same period, Beechcraft Innovation from Xi’an also released a thousand-yuan EMG product DTing.

In addition, starting from around 2017, there are many scientific research projects and entrepreneurial projects on the application of electromyography technology to gesture recognition interaction. Domestically, the development of technology started at the same time as foreign countries. Although there is no big factory to give birth to, it is still developing steadily. Even if the overseas timeline is pulled to 2016, domestic technology has not fallen behind in the development of core technology.

On the whole, the C-end commercialization of electromechanical technology is still focused on large overseas companies. Under their influence, Google casually searched for keywords of similar EMG Bands, and found that its use has gradually diverged recently.Not only are third-party EMG strap accessories that include Assistive Touch functions being crowdfunded, and even Developed an adult business. It can be seen that, on the one hand, since large factories entered the EMG technology in 19 years, related overseas industries have begun to grow rapidly, and the application fields have gradually increased; on the other hand, it also represents that companies such as Apple and Facebook have begun to expand their muscles. Electric technology is the answer to future AR interaction methods. So to what extent is this technology developed? On this track, if there is no catalysis by large factories, can small companies achieve technology landing?

The connotation of commercial EMG technology:

The human body is a “battery”

Strictly speaking, the EMG Band is just an instrument that uses EMG signals to control equipment. The so-called EMG signal, the explanation given by Wikipedia is the electrical energy produced when muscle cells are activated by bioelectricity or nerves. The one-dimensional time series signal graph of the voltage change obtained by the electromyogram (electromyogram, abbreviated as electromyogram) is guided by electrodes to amplify, record, and display the bioelectrical changes produced by single or multiple muscle cells or part of the muscle tissue. EMG), which is the key concept used by the EMG Bands that we can see today.

EMG schematic (source: ResearchGate)

From the perspective of interpretation, EMG shows the pattern of changes in nerve cells when human muscles are active. In popular understanding, people are compared to huge batteries, which will release some electricity when muscles are active, and the graph that records and displays this change in electricity is an electromyogram.

There are two ways to measure and obtain EMG, one is needle electrode EMG and the other is surface motor EMG. The former collects information by invading the human body, and is divided into single-needle electrodes, unipolar concentric electrodes, bipolar concentric electrodes, and so on. The surface electrode EMG collects information through electrodes attached to the surface of the human body, including surface EMG (sEMG) and array electrode sEMG.

Needle electrode EMG is to obtain deep muscle activity signals by inserting needles or thin wires into specific muscles of the human body. However, it is difficult to promote to large-scale use because of pain and difficulty in operation. Nowadays, sEMG, which is surface electromyography, is more commonly used by general technology companies. It only needs to place electrodes on specific muscle parts, which is non-invasive and reduces costs at the same time.

After talking about the acquisition of EMG, let’s take a look at what is needed to actually use EMG. Generally speaking, the use of EMG in the field of science and technology is used to control certain external devices, such as manipulators, bionic arms, etc.; or to implement wireless gesture operation and remote control of external devices, such as using an EMG Band in VR Realize gesture recognition.

There are fewer steps in the process of electromyography information in the medical field. After several measurements to obtain the electromyogram, it can enter the analysis stage. It can be used to analyze muscle dysfunction caused by drugs, poisons, food and diseases, etc. It is often used in clinical neurophysiology, physical medicine and medical rehabilitation.

However, the steps are more complicated when applied to commercialization and changing the way of interaction. The usual EMG Band developer needs to go through acquiring EMG information from acquiring signals to becoming functions-processing information (noise reduction, amplification, etc.)-information that can be recognized by the translation processor-transmission to the terminal-translation Into specific operations-complex processes such as output, not only each step requires a large number of calculations and cross-platform data transmission, but also errors may occur in the process.

To achieve commercialization of such basic technologies, developers are very demanding, or they require a strong technical practice background, not only to master EMG-related technologies, but also to understand technical knowledge such as mobile phones, computers, tablets, and VR/AR. ; Or they have strong financial resources and can build relevant industrial chain, technology, ecology and other environments from zero.

At present, there are companies about the commercialization of EMG technology, both of the above types, especially after Apple, Google, Facebook and other giants announced their entry, the EMG technology market has begun a new round of “turbulence”.

PK between overseas giants and domestic start-ups?

No, it’s their own way

As mentioned in the previous article, although overseas giants have stirred up the situation, from a technical point of view, domestic and foreign strengths are comparable, so new problems have emerged. Is it possible that in the battle of electromyography technology to change the form of interaction, we have to fight overseas” Did you just get on? The answer is yes, no. In this regard, companies at home and abroad have different choices.

First, the direction is different. Whether it is Apple, Google or Facebook, the Big Three’s application of EMG technology is focused on the same field-smart watches. From a long-term perspective, some speculation is that the three parties are optimistic about AR glasses.

Based on Apple’s UWB positioning module for mobile phones, from Macbook to iPad gradually replacing to powerful M1 chip, and then to adding gesture recognition to the watch, it is not difficult to speculate that the shape of Apple AR glasses is likely to be smart with M1 chip. The mobile phone is the total computing unit, responsible for complex positioning and spatial calculations, AR glasses are equipped with secondary chips to assist calculations, and the watch is the main gesture interaction terminal, and the trinity constitutes the AR experience that Apple wants.

Facebook and Google also have similar ideas, adding gesture recognition to consumer-level terminals, in order to further upgrade the equipment and bring a better user experience. In the AMA question and answer a few days ago, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg also made it clear that the goal of Facebook in the next 10 years is to bring XR to more people. The first is to have a wireless experience, and the second is to serve more people. Domestic and overseas are different. Domestic developers are more pragmatic, and the company is small, so it is necessary to use projects to drive technological growth. According to the VR gyro interview, the electromyography equipment of Aoyi Technology mainly serves the B-end fields such as artificial intelligence, medical rehabilitation, and robotics, and serves the company’s technological development with B-end requirements.

Similarly, DTing equipment is mostly used in sports health data monitoring and analysis, assisted rehabilitation and treatment, prosthetic manipulation and other medical fields.

In fact, behind the different development directions at home and abroad, there are differences in the composition of the industrial chain. Behind Apple, Google, and Facebook are huge wealth, the “promise” that can ignore the cost, a series of exquisite and mature production lines that operate 24 hours a day, a reliable supplier who has cooperated for several years, and a new partner who is waiting to be fed. This represents all links in the industrial chain. Large factories are more high-quality, able to run quickly, mass-produce, and iteratively educate the market with products.

What about domestic start-ups? Faced with procurement costs that cannot be suppressed due to small quantities, fluctuating supplier status relationships, a “patch together” supply chain, and “awaited feeding” employees, all of these determine the domestic Some start-ups are unable to spend a lot of money on the “education market” like the Big Three, and instead move toward the route of projects and technology.

In addition, the more important point is that the technical connotations are different. Because of their huge wealth and high social status, giants can achieve overtaking in technologically accumulated curves through acquisitions, feed AI with huge user data, and then use AI to make up for the gap between ideal scenarios and technical reality.

For example, Apple. As mentioned in the popular science section above, whether it is invasive or superficial EMG monitoring, testing equipment needs to be placed on specific muscles. But Apple’s watch-obviously on the wrist, no matter how many sensors there are at the bottom, it is focused on that part of the wrist. But why does the effect look so good? The result of reasonable speculation is that it depends on AI.

Google and Facebook are similar. In other words, when giants use new technologies, what they show us is not the technology itself, but a set of solutions.

Domestic start-up companies, such as companies such as Aoyi Technology and Beechcraft Innovation, pay more attention to the accumulation and growth of technology, and optimize solutions in practice. Among the many start-ups visited by VR Gyro, no matter where the interviewee is, they all know the company’s technology and projects well. If the giants are making world-renowned solutions, domestic start-ups start from scratch and focus on small and beautiful technological achievements. Whether it is good or bad, it has nothing to do with right or wrong, but the choice is different.

to sum up

After discussing the technical connotation and market situation, let’s look at the actual situation-there are still many problems with electromyography technology. For example, the most natural sweating of the human body may seriously affect the conductive effect. Although conductive gel can solve it, you cannot expect everyone to go out with a bottle of gel; constant translation of human body signals and machine signals may lead to errors; market awareness Too low, promotion is not something that startups can do, and so on.

Speaking of this, it is not difficult for everyone to find that after a long time of “impassioned”, the actual electromyography technology is still some way away from the large-scale commercialization, but it is still worthy of attention. Because Gyro Jun always feels that maintaining attention to new technologies is the driving force for the high-tech industry.