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Geek Throne: A Self-Adjusting 'Smart' Chair 91

bmongar writes: "An article at Eurekalert mentions that scientists at Purdue University have made a chair that can sense your posture and movement. As a sufferer of low back pain I hope this leads to chairs that can sense your posture and adjust to provide proper support for your back. It would be a possible relief for millions. I can't find the links supporting this, but I believe computer professionals suffer more back pain than professional movers." This is a cool project. This stuff -- furniture, and ergonomics in general -- will only get more important, even if it's still amazingly neglected.

How they recognize the postures is interesting, too -- "Given the similarity between a pressure distribution map from the contact sensors and a greyscale image, computer vision and pattern recognition algorithms, such as Principal Components Analysis, are applied to the problem of classifying steady-state sitting postures," says the article.

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Geek Throne: A Self-Adjusting "Smart" Chair

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  • That's already been done unsuccessfully about a thousand times already. A chair won't replace the prying hands of a masseuse, no matter what some yuppy undergraduate scientists say!

    GeekThrone_story > /dev/null

  • Unfortunately, you're right. There are a lot of great chairs, workstations, and systems out there. Most companies (and even worse--universities!) would laugh if anyone at the tech level requested them, despite the fact that the techs are the ones who need them. In companies, I see the same story over and over and over; high-paid execs who get the gorgeous furniture, fast computers, and comfortable chairs, but spend most of their time on the road.

    It sucks. Maybe I'll talk to my contacts and see what we can work out.

  • "No one blinks an eye when someone uses a Lazyboy to watch tv. They all seem to get up in arms when one uses it to sit in for a Quake match... "

    I used to play Quake matches on my bed w/my laptop. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more comfortable than my bed w/a nice down comforter and my fat ass feather pillow :)
  • Now all that we need is a system to self-adjust the "ratings" of posts based on what users like. Oh, wait. That's called moderation. No wonder slashdot is so popular.

    Another interesting idea might be self-adjusting trolls. Whenever an article is posted there could be a customized comment of the day based on Natalie Portman and hot grits. It could also moderate itself down and post replys to it.
  • The problem with the field of ergonomics is that there is no single solution.

    Damned right.

    Before we got the chairs we have now the Ergo Nazi's from HR had us using the most god awful, uncomfortable chairs on the planet because they were the only chairs that met all the critera for begin ergonomically correct for "everybody".

    "Everybody" included everybody. This one chair was to do all 5000 people in the company!

    After people started sending in massage bills etc for back pain they got HR out to instruct us on how to "properly" sit in the char. They showed us all these sides about sitting up straight, where computer monitor should be placed etc. The problem was that we don't type all day, we monitor TV services (and fix them when they break) at no point did they realise that not everybody did the same thing. It took us over 1/2 hour to get her to understand that thier ergonimic policies did not work for us.

  • (And proud of it!)

    It seems that Slashdot editors wear this as some sort of badge ("we won't conform", "content instead of grammar/spelling") but, alas, this really makes Slashdot look like a bunch of asses in the final analysis.

    Amen. While I honestly couldn't care less about the spelling/grammar of the user comments (it's an open forum, with fair representation for all regardless of education or familiarity with the language), the volume and magnitude of spelling errors that pass through editing for the stories themselves represent an appalling mockery of journalism. The content is key, of course, but spelling is every bit as important a matter of polish and presentation as, say, the design of a page for legibility. Misspelled words are distracting and may present an amateurish image, undermining the real message, whereas clarity through proper spelling will serve to reinforce that message. You'd think they could at least afford to hire a real editor.

    Of course the standard response aimed at Spelling Nazis is that "English is a living language," and that the Internet will bring about profound changes, altering the very nature of how the language is used. The implication is that poor spellers are trailblazers, exempt from the seemingly arbitrary rules of spelling or grammar, boldly leading us into the future. That they are too "s00per 133t" to be bothered with such petty matters of the physical world; somehow better for their pathetic grasp of the language. I've seen it time and time again here. "Go learn Latin," they say.

    Agreed, English is a living language, and the Internet will play a major role in its evolution, it's true....

    But if you're so hip and 'net savvy, why not lead by example and profoundly change your God-awful spelling rather than expecting the whole world to sink to your level of ineptitude? Your "eliteness" is only a cover-up for your own sloth.

    Rant off. Thank you.

  • Yikes! I shiver when I hear stories like that!

    "THIS is how you WILL sit today!!!"

    Sounds kinda like, "THIS is where you WILL go today!" doesn't it? :-)

    At any rate, check out my long, hopefully informative rant, and take a copy of it to your HR people if necessary.

  • Perhaps the chairs could sense when one is asleep and offer a means to wake the sleeper. A few methods that could be used:

    • The backrest could colapse
    • The wheels could move real friggin' fast, effectively 'pulling' the chair right out from underneath
    • The seat could colapse
    • The chair could shake violently

  • Couldn't we perhaps discuss beds which would let us do everything rather than discussing chairs over and over again.
  • The human body wasn't built to stay stationary for hours on end.

    Then I guess it's a good thing that I only get a couple hours of sleep each night, right? Maybe that's why I don't have carple tunnel syndrom yet ... :)

  • Perhaps it comes with a built-in moist-towelet dispenser on the side of the chair...

  • I have a Geek Throne in my bathroom, but I wouldn't quite call it a "chair".
  • Two months ago I was experiencing near constant excruciating pain in my arms, hands, and wrists. Doctors were variously telling me that I had tennis elbow, carpal-tunnel syndrome, cubital-tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and other common RSI diagnoses. My hobbies, like juggling and guitar playing, seemed to be slipping irrevocably away; I was haunted by visions of an early end to my career.

    I was lucky to be exposed to the ideas of Dr. Sarno []. The high-order bits here are that Sarno thinks that many common chronic pain syndromes are caused by a complex psychological process, rather than damage to the joints and connective tissue. Remarkably, for most people having these symptoms, simply realizing that they are of psychological genesis is enough to banish them.

    While I was initially skeptical of the apparently macho idea that "it was all in my head," Sarno's hypothesis has worked for me. I am 100% cured, without any fancy keyboards, chairs, elaborate icing/heating/rest/drug regimens, or any other conventional treatments for RSI. I am strongly convinced that Sarno is on to something important here, and I strongly recommend that others suffering from RSI at least give his ideas some serious thought.

  • Shit, I'm running my mouse over a mouse pad with the proper posture, foot position, head angle, etc. all diagrammed out and looking at a memo stuck to my cube wall detailing these same requirements in text form. Goddamn, do I ever hate being a corporate rat; at least its not during the day, when the management pukes cry at anyone not conforming to the position chart.

  • I've done both, and as far as the back only, I'd say programming, moreso because the rest of your body isn't in writhing pain as well, tends to bring more attention to it :)
  • well it's different; when you're sleeping your muscles are supposed to be relaxed. A lot of people that suffer from rsi (i had it) don't relax during their sleep which aggrevates/causes the condition.

  • (higher quality is recognizable by the fact that it immediately feels better when you first change to it, and it feels worse when, after using for several hours, you switch back to a lower-quality piece)

    isn't ergonomics just the science of designing chairs that 'immediately feel better' ? I have had rsi and I can tell you that a lot of ergonomics stuff does help, ok I agree there is a lot of stuff that claims to be 'ergonomic' just because it has some weird shape. Excersize definitely helps, but a good working position (ergonomically correct) makes a huge difference.

  • If you only had pain for about 2 months beforehand,
    it's possible that if might have gone away on its own anyway.
    I had had lower back pain continually, for the last three years. Before that, starting about ten years ago, I only had it for about a month each year after which it disappeared by itself.
    Anyway, it's amazing how many people seem to have a solution. Everything ranging from the esoteric (magnets, polarization) to conventional (drugs, surgery, exercise). None of these worked for me.
    Finally I found someone who managed to help me, using methods which in retrospect make perfect sense to me. Basically an intensive massage followed by manipulation to put eveything back in the right place.
    Although exercise hadn't gotten rid of the pain previously, I'm quite sure it'll help prevent it returning again. So, if you'll excuse me now, I'm off for a run.
  • Not meaning to get too anal, but I'm too much of a boilermaker not to point it out. Purdue is a school, Perdue is a guy who sells chickens.
  • They've got to incorporate this technology into toilets as well... I thought that's what was meant by "throne" anyways...

  • by fhwang ( 90412 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @07:15PM (#650254) Homepage
    Ergo fanatics should check out the chair designed by HumanScale []. Not that I can afford the thing, but it seems pretty cool: It automatically adjusts to find you an optimal posture, but it does so with electronics or sensors. It does so with cantilevers, balances, and sliders that adjust to your own movement. Sometimes the most elegant solution has nothing to do with computers ...
  • Cadillacs and Mercedes already do this.
    Of course coding while I drive might be why I get so many tickets.
  • As a sufferer of low back pain...

    I think Descartes' ideas would have acheived a greater following if he had said, "I suffer from lower back pain, therefore I am."

  • by nido ( 102070 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .65odin.> on Friday November 03, 2000 @07:29PM (#650257) Homepage
    I can't find the links supporting this, but I believe computer professionsals suffer more back pain than professional movers.

    Of course computer professionals are going to suffer more back pain than professional movers - if you spend all day moving couches & heavy stuff, you're giving most of the muscles in your body a good workout. If, on the other hand, you spend your entire day doing next to nothing physically (relatively), using a little force in the same direction over and over again, what do you think is going to happen to most of the muscles in your body? One word: atrophy. At least, that's what happens according to the author of Pain Free At Your PC []( [] has it too, just can't get that link to work correctly). To quote from the first chapter: "The true source of chronic musculoskeletal pain is rarely the site of the pain. . . . If your wrist hurts while you are pointing and clicking a mouse, the pain probably has nothing to do with the device." The book has four programs of simple exercises (maintenance or light, moderate and power users) specifically designed to work the muscles we're neglecting.

    I bought this book right after my doctor perscribed me drugs, and said if they didn't work we'd go for surgery. I don't believe in conventional medicine (aside from when they function as body mechanics), so I bought this book when I saw it at the local food co-op in the hopes that it would have some information dealing with what was causing my "repetitive stress injury". I had actually gone to the doctor to get a referral to a chiropractor, 'cause slashdotters have said they can help. Of course, doctors prefer drugs & surgery to dealing with root causes (what was I thinking?). I haven't been very diligent about doing the exercises, but after reading it I corrected my posture, and my back was damn sore for the next few days. If you suffer from pain while using a computer, Buy This Book. I wish I had found it before purchasing a Datahand keyboard... probably would've saved myself a bathtub of cash.

    You know those ergonomic chairs that don't have a back? The one several of you with back problems have tried, but can't sit in for any length of time? The muscles in your body have probably decayed because of poor work habits.. Before you go out and spend $1000 on a chair or keyboard, please spend $10 on this book, and give the e-cises a try.

  • I believe computer professionsals suffer more back pain than professional movers

    Holy crap, do you want some cheese with that whine?

    Really though, this guy needs to get some serious perspective. Computer programmers sit on their asses all day. Professional movers are up and about all day, lifting hundreds of pounds at a time.

    Gee, let's see, which one is harder on your back? Is it (a) Sitting on your ass all day, or (b) lifting hundreds of pounds and moving all day?

    Yeah, this is a real toughie, Reege. I'm going to have to go for a lifeline.

  • OK people. I know there isn't a lot to do in the great state of Indiana, but come on! It is a fricken chair!

    How much tweeking does there need to be for something that's been around for so so long. For god's sake... you take your ass and put it firmly in the center of the stupid thing. If you aren't comfortable... you get a better chair or you get up off of your fat ass and walk around until the blood starts to circulate again.

    If you ask me ( i know, i one asked me), these people aren't engineers. They've gotta be from the business school...MIS majors with a minor in Marketing or something... What do they call it??? "product continuation"??? That's where *they* market a product differently just because they want more cash outta it. "Cash cow" i believe is another term. You know... what they did with the IBM s/390...

    PU Intern: s/390 product sales are slipping again, sir.

    Marketing director: Hmmm... what can we do to make these mainframes more sexy?

    PU Intern: I know, sir! Let's call it a "server". IT folks love the sound of that word!

    Back to my rant...It's just a chair, people! Plus, can you imagine the abuse those sensors are gonna take with some admins 400lb ass shifting around and farting all day while he takes Q3A crack pot camper shots at some dude in Japan.


    Pssstt - its a fricken chair, people.

    (/Dennis Miller)

  • I think everybody in here would agree with me that the most comfortable positions are the most painful ones. I would spend all day finding my "position" and the chair would keep correcting me... how worthless is that?
  • Then you're lucky. Very lucky. And also built slightly differently than everyone else.

    I was pretty happy with a good chair in front of a crappy old desk for a while. When they moved me,
    I did well enough in a broken office chair at a
    similar desk. With a really good chair in a designed corner workstation, I barely survived, and now with a chair that's slightly too low (and not adjustable) with a high desk, I'm becoming crippled.

    Other people could go through the same setup and have the opposite reaction. The problem with the field of ergonomics is that there is no single solution.

    Enjoy your back.

  • At least I'm not the only one to have a thing about spelling universities correctly...

    Again, it's Purdue [] and not Perdue [].

    And just in case it comes up (since it has before), it's Indiana University (IU) [] and not University of Indiana []

    On a different note, because Purdue has long been strong in the agricultural tech. area, I've heard that it's been jokingly referred to as "CowTech" :)
    D. Fischer
  • Ever wonder why you never seem to wake up in exactly the same position that you fell asleep in? People move while sleeping. They'll turn around while sleeping - you do actually move while asleep. It's generally not enough to fall out of bed (although sometimes it is!) and you generally don't start moving far enough to annoy anyone you're sleeping next to, but you do actually move while asleep.
  • so do you sit on a chair when:
    you're reading ?
    you're eating ? - I can just picture you going to some reaturant and insisting to sit on the floor
    you're writing ?
    you're doing your administration ?
    you're receiving your clients ?

    your logic seems to be: find the most uncomfortable position you can work in so that it causes the desire not to stay in that position long. I think I should start coding in an electric chair with sublethal current running through it ?

    I don't think you get it; when I watch my kid brother sitting on the floor playing nintendo for basically the whole saturday he doesn't look very comfortable but he stays there because he wants to finish the nth level and beat the end monster. I think the same sort of stuff goes for a lot of programmers; they want to program so they will stay in uncomfortable positions if they have to. It's a matter of focus, you get so focused on the game/program that you tend to forget any discomfort.

  • by TheDullBlade ( 28998 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @09:09PM (#650265)
    "Ergonomics" is a alternatively a meaningless buzzword attached to oddly shaped products, or a pseudoscience of comfort. Either way, it's obvious why it has no rules.

    If you are experiencing lower back pain from sitting, even though you have a comfortable chair, you don't need a new, special "ergonomic" chair, you need to get more exercise. Your back is too weak to support you in an upright sitting position.

    This isn't rocket science, folks. It's common sense: buy high quality furniture/equipment (higher quality is recognizable by the fact that it immediately feels better when you first change to it, and it feels worse when, after using for several hours, you switch back to a lower-quality piece), rest and stretch when you start to get sore, and get enough exercise. People buy "ergonomic" equipment when they're too cheap to spring for good gear, too impatient to take the necessary rest, or too lazy to get proper exercise. They ignore what common sense tells them is necessary when a group of professional deceivers tell them that there's an easy way out.

    As with many of life's problems, the real answers are simple and obvious, just not necessarily cheap or easy.

    Examples of the victory of "ergonomics" over common sense:
    -a plethora of bizarrely shaped rubber-dome keyboards that don't function nearly as well as the old standard buckling-spring keyboards
    -$300 chairs that are adjustable 27 ways with carefully shaped surfaces, but that are underpadded, need constant readjustment because they don't hold their settings, and can be ripped apart with your bare hands
    -$60 shaped rounded, asymmetric mice, that are harder to use than $6 nearly square mice

    There aren't always ideal solutions that are the best for everyone, but there is plenty of idiotic trash that is worse than useless, and most of it is labeled "ergonomic".

  • Thank god!!! Someone who also understands, more than just computers!!!! I am a student in health sciences(prosthetics and orthotics(and soon to be an engineering student also), and I marvel at how much drivel gets posted and written on slashdot in regards to health issues. If only people looked beyond their tiny realms.
  • Force feedback *chair* for Quake?

    What version is this for, Wheelchair Quake?

    Quake Sydney Paralympics 2000?

  • There is no need to spend $1000 dollars on a chair to provide superior lower-back support.

    Buy a kneeling chair from Office Organix [] or your local Staples, Office Depot, or Office Max.

    Wake up, smell the coffee, and see the choices!

  • The answer is A, SITTING ON YOUR ASS, Regis.

    How do I know? I'm a physical therapist, I fix dumbshit programmers for a living.

    Fuck the chair, get up and walk around every 10 to fifteen minutes. Better yet, sit on the floor. Discomfort is nature's way of telling you to move your ass. Pain is her way of saying you screwed up bigtime.

  • An old sock would work just as well.
  • Write that in your little black book and tell me about it later.
  • That wouldn't work. Trolls would just say something funny, wait until it's modded up, and then edit it to say something about grits in pants or whatever.
  • Those Herman Miller Aeron [] chairs are the most comfortable chairs I've ever used... it's like sitting on a cloud, or some sort of force field.

    These days they're priced at up to $850-900, but every time I sit in one at work, that price seems a little bit cheaper to me. Considering the chair in front of my computer is probably the most-often-occupied seat in my home, I think it will be money well spent.
  • After '93, I was practically disabled (in ADA terms): I can no longer take public transportation, within NYC); can't sit without support, and with support, not for more than 2-3 hours, without the onset of chronic pain; can't climb stairs (without onset of cp); have trouble walking uphill even.

    I made several adjustments... First, I bought 2 kneeling chairs, one for home and one for work. That worked reasonably well for awhile, but long work hours were still a problem. Then I found a "laptop desk," which is designed like a 2-piece hospital tray, one piece of which inclines while the other remains flat for coffee mugs, dickettes, peripherals -- the unit included a flexible halogen light which was itself attached to a highly adjustable copy holder. This allows me to work "at home" lying down (which is one reason I hate bad keyboards -- it's not like I can easily look at the damned things when the keys are misplaced!); I started working partly off-site at home, and looking for part-time regular work.

    The problem with these solutions, of course, is neither is very portable. (I did once wheel one of the kneeling chairs, strapped to a luggage rack, to a movie theatre. Getting home afterwards was the problem.) The ultimate solution, for me, I found at a computer show: It's called Nada Chair [], which is a company that makes various marvellous, portable contraptions. The one they sold me originally was called the "Back-Up" and sold as "backup for your discs" (a little humor never hurts!).

    When that one was stolen (long story), I didn't want to wait for mail order, so I bought the only device they make I could find in NYC: the "Sit-pack." It's not quite as good, but it goes with me literally everywhere. If you suffer from low-back pain, go check out Nada Chair's Web site ( No chair can possibly fit you as well as these devices, which you can use in ANY chair!

    I used to recommend Nada Chair to writers, too, who also often suffer from low-back pain for the same reason computer users do. Btw, use a decent WP/coding/editing package which does NOT force you to use a mouse -- and learn the short-cut keys. Mouse use if FAR more stressful to your wrists and hands than tapping on a keyboard.

  • so an uncomfortable seat makes you more productive?
    Your one of the bastards that designed school desks!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    A chair that replaces my mother!

    "Sit up straight!"

    "Don't slouch in your chair!"

    "You keep doing that and you're going to go blind!"

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @06:27PM (#650277)
    in addition to the fact that I already waste enough time in front of the monitor, do I really want to be so comfy that I fall asleep coding my latest CS assignment? :)

  • In addition to poor back pain, he suffers from a case of terrible spelling! I suggest he gets stung by 1,000 large spelling bees. In the ass.
  • no no, that is why you have X10 devices :)
  • will it also turn on my lights at night when it detects that i'm leaning forward to squint at the screen?

  • That's pUrdue!
  • by websensei ( 84861 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @06:29PM (#650282) Journal
    Just as an entire cottage industry has sprung up around maintaining the well-being of professional athletes, so too must -- and will --- a similar cadre of companies, services and products arise whose raison d'etre is the preservation of the coder's ability to code.

    This is a Good Thing(TM).

    I struggled with repetetive stress injuries to my wrists and elbows and have been in the fortunate minority, in that I recovered and was able to adjust my habits and environment to prevent recurring problems. For the newbies out there: learn the right habits and stick to them. For the old school gurus this applies double.

  • Are these things going to be created to give you proper posture, or as the submitter suggests provide the best support for your current posture???

  • That's pUrdue!

    Either that, or it's a place where chickens get educated. Or maybe where you go to learn about chickens.

  • I don't see why this is under toys, ergonomic design is a really important when you are sitting in the same spot all day every day.

    I work in a TV master control and let me tell you chairs are serious business when you spend every shift sitting down looking at a 200+ monitor wall.

    The chairs we have now are Recaro's (seats they put in racing cars) and they are a god send. We had to fight tooth and nail for them though because they are expensive, about twice the cost of the chair that the CEO sits in. When they arrived complaints about back pain dropped to near zero. A good char is damned inportant.

    I would LOVE a chair like this, and not just because it a cool toy/status symbol but because even the best designed chair is not right for everybody.

  • that the name of a college be spelled correctly? Jesus.

    Slashdot - "And the Nobelle prize is awardid to...", "The thery of relativty clearly staites that..."

    It seems that slashdot editors wear this as some sort of badge ("we won't conform", "content instead of grammar/spelling") but, alas, this really makes slashdot look like a bunch of asses in the final analysis.

  • and some new drivers written for it, we could have a pretty cool force feedback chair for Quake! Or we could program it to give us backrubs....I remember some userfriendly comics about ergo chairs.

  • You're a fucking idiot. Try talking to someone who's in decent shape, gets exercise and has a life away from the computer, but still has to undergo surgery for their back/wrist/arm problems.

    You don't like the chair? Fine! Don't buy the damned thing! Just fuck off and leave those who WOULD alone.

    This message brought to you by my third and fourth lumbar vertebrae.

  • Discomfort is an intregal part of any quality CS curriculem. I suffered for 4 years, so should you. =)
  • Great, just what I needed. Another chair that my boss will love. Ever notice how the geek chairs never make it down to geek level. We always get those cruddy chairs from the last decade that no one else wants. Seriously, we need some ergonomic chairs that are cheap enough that the brass won't hesitate to purchase them. Oh, wait, thats right I work for a midwestern university that doesn't expect me to live on the job. Actually, keep the chair, I'm taking the afternoon off.

  • reduced to pale human maggots modern day versions of jabba. Did you know jabba the hut was a programmer once before he was able to roll over and sleep in his own folds of fat? Big sludgy animals in our hard exoskeletons (cars) almost like snails. Our cities are the modern day coral reefs of this planet.

    Okay so im low on blood sugar, time to eat!
  • At my company, we are using the high priced Herman Miller chairs. I've gotta guess those things run in the excess of $900. If they don't conform for comfort, then I don't know what does. I've never heard anyone complain about those chairs.
  • "Let's just say I'm sitting in the right place!" -Homer Simpson
  • My back has never troubled me, but dear god, how my arse suffers - someone should make Gel-type supports for them......

    A fat guy sitting on a pillow.

    Full plate and packing steel! -Minsc

  • Possibly...but I'll bet they have chairs in china....
  • by ecloud ( 3022 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @09:45PM (#650296) Homepage Journal
    First, AFAICT, the Purdue project is not a self-adjusting chair... it only senses your position.

    But I thought of an idea to build a self-adjusting chair several years ago... a lattice of triangular shapes, and a linear actuator underneath each corner. (But the corners of 3 different triangles meet at each motor, so raising the motor at a point would "pitch a tent"... 3 different triangles angle upwards.) The resultant stretching would require the triangles to be stretchy, so it'd probably be best to make a single sheet of molded rubber for the whole chair, with the triangles being thicker and the joints between them thinner. The triangles should have rounded corners so they don't poke you too much. There would be a strain-gauge type sensor at the end of each motor's shaft. There would be some software which simply tries to adjust all the motors in such a way that the force distribution fits a nice smooth 3d spline patch... thus over a small area of your body, the forces would be approximately equally distributed. The chair frame could be built like a chaise lounge, a seat and a back and a leg-piece each with the adjustable surface, and also with an angle adjustment so that you can either sit up straight or lie down flat or anything in between. You could use it for everything from coding to reading to sleeping: just use a high-resolution projector instead of a monitor, and a wireless keyboard, and a trackball.

    Now imagine a futon looking thing made this way... and "presets" which either make a hump in the middle to keep the two people apart, or make one big depression in the middle for cuddling. Kindof erotic. Some hacker would probably write some software to simulate a partner by shaping the surface appropriately. Put on your VR goggles, and shazam...virtual Natalie Portman. Much cheaper than an android if you are happy with the missionary position.

    You could also do force feedback for games if the motors were fast enough, but it might be kindof power-hungry with all of them jerking you around at once.

    But it would be rather expensive... would require thousands of motors. I also thought of making a webbed chair or loveseat, but having motors on each horizontal and vertical strap, so that the basic shape can be adjusted by adjusting the tensions of the straps... but it wouldn't be quite as flexible. At least it could be built at a reasonable cost.
  • HELL YES!!!

    I'm a physical therapist. Most of my patients are office workers. The modern office has been designed to take almost all motion out of work. This is insanity. People are designed to run around all day, not sit motionless in front of a CRT.

    My solution to the problem? For a healthy young person it is no desk, no chair. Put your PC on the floor. When you can't sit there any more, GET UP and go do something else. If you are sitting like a spud playing Q3 for ten hours at a stretch, it is going to screw you up BAD eventually. We are talking tendonitis, frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel, back pain, SI joint pain, you name it.

    You're a programer, you HAVE to code for long periods? Have a monitor where you sit on the floor and one where you stand. Switch when you get tired.

    The Phantom Therapist
  • While I appreciate the effort and technology invested in the chair (Working in a lab where 50% of ppl. do image recognition) a much cheaper solution to bad posture is to sit on a Swiss Ball []. Being round it forces you to sit up straight and will then automagically releave lower back pain.
  • Unfortunately, you're right about too many things. (despite my long diatribe)

    I can spend five years doing biomechanics research, designing a good product that works, and building it well. That's going to end up costing about $1500/chair. OR I can take a normal $100 chair, make it look goofy, call it ergonomic, and sell it for $300, without the five year lead time. Guess which is going to make me more money? Guess which is easier? Guess which WON'T solve problems for anyone? (except my accountant, that is)

    There does seem to be a lot of crap unjustifiably labelled as "ergonomic," but I think that a lot of that stems from the fact that people have been told for so long that THIS is how you sit, they've forgotten the point of all of this: To make them comfortable! People don't understand that crucial point, and don't realise that they are the best indicator of whether something works or not, so they get sold so much crap.

    On the mouse side: I have an $85 trackball from logitech--very sleek and 'ergonomic', and it's saved me from having surgery on my thumb. Sometimes the things that are designed (well!) to work really do.

  • but..rioting's cool....
  • Surprisingly, I've only seen this mentioned buried deep in a single comment here, but folks...this is not a self-adjusting chair. The only thing that even implies that is the headline of the Slashdot story, which is sad...apparently Slashdot authors don't actually read the articles they post. All this chair does is take sensor readings. It does not adjust itself in any way.

    In any case, this chair does serve one very good purpose: research. No doubt the research gleaned from this project will result in some very good data regarding how people sit, and I'm sure some very good chair designs could come from this.


  • My gripe with real, professional ergonomics is that it reeks of cargo cultism (which is what I meant by "psuedoscience"). They try to make it a science, when good design of comfortable equipment is an art.

    All that analysis of body types and measurement of pressure levels produces inferior results to simple testing and using intuitive judgement.

    Good "ergonomic" equipment is still a result of talent, experience, and lots of testing, not number crunching or years of book-study. There are a huge number of people trained in ergonomics, and only a few produce good designs, while comfort:price ratio has gone down in general since people started talking about "ergonomics" and taking courses in it. It's a ridiculous farce for the useless special ergonomic training to claim credit for the good results of a small percentage of its students. They succeed in spite of, not due to, the time spent (wasted) on this training.

    To extend the cargo cult metaphor, it's like claiming that the runway incantation works because planes are occasionally shot down in the area now that it has been built.

    Ergonomics, like software engineering and teacher training, is a sham field which attempts (despite their insistence to the contrary) to replace natural talent and hard-won experience with systematic methods, and so increase the supply of competent individuals. They get off the ground by attracting talented individuals, who are naturally drawn to things which may increase their already considerable abilities, and so produce misleadingly positive results when compared to those who aren't drawn in. However, once established, they draw students from the general population, and it becomes evident to the analytical mind that it does not deserve its reputation (however, most people have rather weak logic skills, so to them: "good designers studied or did research on ergonomics" implies "studying ergonomics makes people into good designers").

  • Nope. I just can't agree.

    Sure it takes talent. Sure it takes hard work and experience. Would you rather scrap the entire field as an area of study, and let innate designers start drawing things at random, without any training? I guess they don't REALLY need to know how much weight their products will have to support. Similarly, who cares what the laws regarding flammability of fabrics are for different purposes?

    Comfort/price ratio has very little to do with the study and development of ergonomics, biomechanics, and so forth. As a result of _design_research_ you can now buy a chair that will be as or more comfortable *FOR YOU* than anything previous, if you've got the money to spare. As a result of _marketing_ the price on a random chair has been jacked up to be some significant fraction of that price, because they can be. As a result of _business_finances_ companies won't buy the very expensive chairs for peons, and will resist buying the (now more expensive than they used to be) average chairs as much as possible, until every other chair in their company has been broken beyond repair or use.

    In ten years, we're all going to have good chairs, because that's all that will be available. The managers will still get the best ones, but that's just corporatism for you. Still, when you get that good chair, you can thank the efforts of talented and experienced people using methodical and systematic research in ergonomics. You won't get anywhere without both, and that holds true in any field.

    Finally, one last point: Teacher training and software engineering are both labour-intensive, low-overhead tasks. Designing and building furniture takes a lot of expensive tools and materials, and just isn't feasible without some sort of infrastructure.

  • P.S. Thanks for the Cargo Cult reference. It made my day!

  • im just fine with this junky office chair we found it the trash.

  • by Grell ( 9450 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @06:35PM (#650306) Homepage
    I sure would hate to see someone monitor the sensors of this chair and log them.

    Imagine your next performance review w/ your employer:

    "Okay, you were apparently asleep 14% of the time you were here, and we're adding a rider to your health care coverage which invalidates all RSI problems because your posture sucks..."

    Still, I can see the value of a chair that would adjust to fit my needs.


    (mind you, that thing better have hella strong servo's to craftsmaticize _my_ tushie)
  • yeah, I have a wooden folding chair w/a lattice seat. It is terribly uncomfortable. I have bad posture in it and it makes my back hurt a lot. Thing is, I want to get out of the god damn thing so bad that it makes me actually work harder...

    My biggest problem isn't the damn chair, it is the fucking stack of Coke cans surrounding my monitors and keyboard :)
  • if back pain detected [ lower seat 50 cm ] fi if bored [ spin 360 ] fi if boss detected [ spin to 0 set back 90 ] fi if lunch time [ set db = 160 settext = 'LUNCH TIME!' cat settext /dev/speach ] fi

  • Perhaps the chairs could be programmed by the companies to wake up sleeping workers?
  • if back pain detected
    lower seat 50 cm

    if bored
    spin 360

    if boss detected
    spin to 0
    set back 90

    if lunch time
    set db = 160
    settext = 'LUNCH TIME!'
    cat settext /dev/speach

  • And I thought I was going to learn about engineering, what a shock.
  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @08:05PM (#650312) Journal

    Yes, that's right--a lot of slashdot readers deserve to be lumped into the "...for dummies" category on this subject, simply because you don't know what you're talking about, and you're too damned belligerent to learn. This is your chance.

    First rule of ergonomics: There are no rules. Well, no hard and fast rules. I've posted this before, but not enough people seem to realise this important fact: What works for you might not work for your neighbor. If you can code (more likely play Q3) for ten hours straight, and not suffer from it, then that's great news! Fantastic, even! Don't assume that the guy in the office who complains about his back despite putting in "only" 40-50 hours per week is just a whiner, or someone who wants a new toy.

    A chair is supposed to support you. If your chair and your muscles work together with your posture, flexibility, etc. to support you painlessly, then enjoy it. This exact solution is not likely to work for most other people. The crux of ergonomics comes down to these two points:

    * Everyone is different.

    * The human body wasn't built to stay stationary for hours on end.

    If you try to get around the second point by putting someone in a situation where they don't move (computing comes to mind--no more typewriter carriages to move by hand, no more coffee breaks, lunches at one's desk...) for hours on end, then you're going to have to do more to tweak that person's environment to work with the specifics of their body. In other words, Ergonomic solutions becomes more individual and unique as the stress on the body increases.

    Now let's restress the second point: The human body doesn't like to be at rest.

    One of the solutions to muscular stress problems is to give people highly adjustable workstations. The problems here are that (A) people aren't very good at adjusting things so they feel good (surprising but true!), and (B) the perfect solution only works for a while for a given person. Sooner or later, something has to give, and it does. So, we refine the idea: Give people a chair which adjusts to their body without their conscious input, and continues to adjust as they move. This is the idea behind this chair, and several others. Haworth came up with the slogan, "the best posture is the next posture" for their Taz chair, implying that movement is the best solution to (potential) problems caused by sitting all day.

    Is it the ultimate solution? No. Is any chair, workstation, or even exercise regime? No. There is no single solution, just a steadily advancing body of knowledge to help those who are suffering a hell of a lot.

    And to the idiot who suggested that all of the money going into this field (the research is apparently all done by marketing staff!!!) could be better spent on food, clothing, shelter, and so forth; You might consider the amount of money that goes into computer games, or any computer research for that matter. How much food could we raise for the price of John Carmack's (I think that's him--that ID guy) Ferarri? When you lambaste a company that designs a better chair, it makes me wonder if you just hate to see people not in pain.

  • Mom said it would make me go blind.

    It didn't. 8-)

  • It would be nice to have some cross between wearables and dektop computers, maybe having one of those nice glasses that project images on your retina. Make it cordless, get a cordless keyboard and trackball, and have some different places to work in your workroom(a chair, a sofa, a carpet on the ground, a bed, maybe), then you could work and switch place every 5 min without too much hassle. I bet that would prove good for your body.

    (To the parent) You are the physical therapist, do you think it could work?

  • Damn, another Cadillac-driving /.'r!
  • Does it concern anyone else that in our generation chairs that are prefect cradles for our bodies for entire days have become a critical issue?

    I remember when I was a kid reading the dire prediciton that we would let all our limbs atrify to the point of being human eggs.

    Suddenly it doesn't seem as outrageous as it did...
  • The real reason why geeks have poor posture is that they don't get enough exercise. I knew the writer of one of the most popular text editors and he must have weighted over 300 pounds. Every time he stood up he ran the risk of throwing his back out.

    Get out of that damn chair and go take a long walk. No human was made for any chair. And no chair was made for any human.

    A chair is a device that allows you to keep your rear off the dirty floor. Not much use for anything else. Switch to a bench without a back.

  • Well, I 'll take you word on that one....

    (slighty more than one click(tm) later)

    A book is on its way.

    I must look to see if theres any websites covering this issue.

  • Does anybody recall the cybernetic chairs from Sterling's Distraction []? "A commercial failure. People don't trust computation enough to sit on it."


  • by i-Chaos ( 179440 ) on Friday November 03, 2000 @06:42PM (#650320)
    ... shifted my body to type with one hand on the keyboard and one hand close to my center of mass while making jerking movements on my chair?
    Hmm... maybe it should also sense the temperature changes in my body so that if I start fogging up the screen and sitting on the edge of my seat it'll tilt and reposition itself so that I'm pushed back into a more relaxed position to prevent a cyber-induced-heart-attack?
    What if someone were to hack the chair's hardware, insert some force feedback cabling devices, plug it into USB port, open source the drivers, then make it respond to IRC /me's like "/me is stroking your back." :)
    God, couple this new chair with the iFeel Mouseman, push the prices down, bundle it with a web-cam + teleconferencing software and IRC, call it the "Cyber-Flex Productivity Suite," and get a marketing campaign geared towards 14 year olds, then you'll be raking in the dough :)

  • Wow, and to think I was kidding about the weight.

    I dont think 6'3 225 is too fat do you?

    All I meant was that I was a little curious how a freestanding chair could be adjusted.

    (i.e. servos, hydraulics, what?)

    Obviously I should have been more specific tho'
    thanks for the attack. ^_^


  • Since the debut of the IBM PS2 Model 25 I have been doing all my home compting in a lazy boy. Currently I have a large table in front of me that has an extended monitor arm for my 17" monitor, and a bevy of monitors to my left on a seperate table for the rest of my machines. To my right is a chair that I put my mouse on, and one of my Cambridge Soundworks Speakers.

    You probably think that this is silly, as do most of the people who come into my "geek-room". Still if it was so damn silly then why do some of my geek friends use this exact same setup? Because its comfortable thats why. (They thought it was dumb at first too, until they sat down and tried it...)

    No one blinks an eye when someone uses a Lazyboy to watch tv. They all seem to get up in arms when one uses it to sit in for a Quake match...

    Heck, I have upgraded this rig too! My O'Reilly books are within easy reach as is my Hub, cable modem, desk lamp and "under lazyboy chair heater" for those cold Canadian days in the geek-room.

    If you are going to try it, just make certain you have a table that is high enough to get your legs under in the lazy boy.
  • by HongPong ( 226840 ) <hongpong AT hongpong DOT com> on Friday November 03, 2000 @06:54PM (#650323) Homepage
    People stereotype nerds need to get out more, that we are too removed from reality, and we fight that. And now, a chair? A chair? Who gives a flying s*** about a chair?!! People are starving in China! The WTO is out to manipulate whole nations!! Genetically engineered food is destroying the food chain! Idiots are being elected to the presidency! The speed limit is too low and so is my GPA! AUGHHHHH!

    I need to sit down.

Recent investments will yield a slight profit.