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Christmas Gift Guide
Wearable Tech

I flew a drone with a flick of my wrist

Tiny startup Metron Force has a surprisingly smart wristband.

I've wanted to use The Force since I was a little kid. Pull things towards me, push them away, with a mere wave of my hand. This week, I got to try something a lot like that.

Don't get too excited: we haven't developed human tractor beams quite yet. But remote-control cars, drones and light bulbs could totally be within your grasp, using one of the most intuitive control schemes I've ever tried: a smart wristband.

These days, we typically remote-control our gadgets in one of two ways: big, bulky RF remotes with joysticks and buttons, or with smartphone apps that connect over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. RF remotes are fast and precise but can require a pilot's touch. Smartphone apps are simple, but often laggy and easily confused. It's pretty neat to just tilt your phone to tell a drone where to go, but by the time you react it may be too late to prevent a crash.

Strapping on a prototype mForce wristband, I figured it would be the worst of both worlds -- slow to respond to my gestures, and clumsy because my wrists are less precise than my fingers. (The similar Myo wristband, which uses Bluetooth, didn't impress us much last year.) But I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks to some fancy algorithms (it's designed by a former Intel algorithm genius) and fast RF tech, it often felt like the wristband was reading my mind.

One of the prototype "brains" that can turn a normal R/C toy into a wrist-controlled one.

Sean Hollister/CNET

The catch: you need to hack your toys in order to control them this way. Each of the remote-control gadgets I tried (a drone, a rolling BB-8 droid and a walking Hexbug) had its electronics stripped out and replaced with an mForce "brain." It's a little brick that contains its own control board and a battery to power it. It also means cutting a few wires inside your toy and splicing them to the brick if you want to do the same.

For $150 (roughly £104 or AU$195) Metron Force hopes to sell a complete package with a wristband, a flying drone, an R/C car and an extra brain to attach to any device you'd like to control. (You can just double-tap on the wristband to start controlling a different device.) For $100 (roughly £70 or AU$130), the company hopes to sell a DIY kit with just the wristband and brain.

But first, the company will need to find some cash. I wouldn't expect to hear another peep out of Metron Force until it launches a crowdfunding campaign, raises some venture capital or makes a deal with Hasbro to be part of next year's Star Wars toy collection.