Goodbye, keyboard. Here's how we'll soon control computers

Saturday, 11 Jan 2014 | 3:00 PM ET
The Myo gesture and motion control armband
Source: Thalmic Labs
The Myo gesture and motion control armband

Scrolling with your eyes. Adjusting the volume of music with a flick of the wrist. Even flying a drone with just a hand movement. It won't be long before the computer mouse is a thing of the past.

Just as the iPhone revolutionized touch interface, upcoming devices will have completely different forms of human-machine interaction, according to industry experts at CES.

(Read more: CES 2014: Wearable tech dominates)

"As these devices come to market, we will need new ways to interact with them," said Stephen Lake, Thalmic Labs CEO and co-founder.

(Read more: Forget passwords and pins, your body is now a key )

"Down the road, all those new forms of computers, like Google Glass, will need a new kind of interface because we will want to be able to interact with devices," Lake said.

For example, Thalmic Labs has created an armband, called the Myo, that uses electrical activity in the wearer's muscles to control everything from a computer to smartphones to drones.

Other companies, including Leap Motion and Microsoft, are developing gesture-control products, but they generally work via a camera-based system, limiting a user's mobility. Myo lets a user move about freely.

Image Source | Getty Images

Thalmic already has several partnerships with other companies that are building applications for its use. Consumer tech company Parrot, for example, has developed a consumer drone that could be controlled by the Myo. Lake declined to name other companies Thalmic is working with, but said some are in aerospace, robotics and 3D printing.

Look There...Now There It Is

Another emerging trend? Eye-tracking technology.

"Eye-tracking technology is already established in some specific markets," said Henrik Eskilsson, the CEO of Tobii Technology, which makes such systems. "It's already used frequently in advertising and marketing. But what we see now is eye-tracking technology take the plunge into the consumer mass market,"

Tobii, which makes money by selling the core technology as a platform and as a licensing business model to major manufacturers, is aiming to roll out to the consumer market this year.

Wearable tech, smart devices dominate CES 2014
Tom Morrod, Senior Director for Consumer Electronics at IHS says "smart" is the current buzzword making the rounds at the annual Consumer Electronics Show taking place in Las Vegas.

The company has partnered with SteelSeries and has done concept prototypes with a number of vendors, including Lenovo.

"We've seen an explosion, an absolute explosion," Eskilsson said. "The automotive industry is also all over this because they have transformed the user interface in your car."

It remains to be seen what will stick as these new technologies make their way to the consumer market.

Ultimately, Lake said, the winners will probably combine different interfaces.

"As more and more functionality comes out, people will be more accepting to it," he said.

—By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.


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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

  • Cadie Thompson is a tech reporter for the Enterprise Team for CNBC.com.

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.

  • Jon Fortt is an on-air editor. He covers the companies, start-ups, and trends that are driving innovation in the industry.

  • Lipton is CNBC's technology correspondent, working from CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau.

  • Mark is CNBC's Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bureau Chief covering technology and digital media.