We often think of touchscreen displays as one of the more accessible ways to interact with our gadgets. But a variety of physical and cognitive disabilities, including conditions like ALS, can make even using a touchscreen nearly impossible. Enter a recent CES 2021 Innovation Award honoree called the Mudra Band.
The concept is similar to the Myo armband North (back when it was known as Thalmic) released before it pivoted to focus on its Focals smart glasses. Working in conjunction with an Apple Watch, the Mudra Band uses a sensor to detect electrical signals sent by your brain to your fingers. A deep-learning algorithm then analyzes those impulses and maps them to a corresponding finger movement. It sends that information to your Apple Watch with the help of Bluetooth LE. You set the action each moment triggers. In that way, your ring finger can activate Siri while your pinky can skip songs.
When Wearable Devices, the startup that’s behind the Mudra Band, first pitched the device to Indiegogo backers, it did so by playing up the fact it could let you use the Apple Watch without touching it with your non-watch hand. But the company told Engadget it’s been working on accessibility use cases as well. In one instance, they built a proof of concept that allows ALS patients to quickly type using a virtual keyboard. In another example, the company used the wearable to give an IDF veteran whose injury left them with a heavily clenched fist the chance to learn to play the piano.
Wearable Devices is working with universities in the US, Israel and Japan to develop those use cases. In the meantime, the Mudra Band is available to pre-order today for $179 ahead of its release in March.