There is overwhelming evidence that sitting for long periods has detrimental effects on our body. The truth is that many people spend more time sitting than they should. Eating, driving to work, attending meetings, using keyboards at the office, watching TV and movies at home is not good for our long-term health. Those who do not exercise enough increase their risk of cardiovascular problems, excess weight gain, hypertension and back pain.

A Personal Trainer promotes good posture

To counter the vicious circle of pain and poor health caused by poor posture and inactivity, it’s necessary to make a conscious effort to exercise and strengthen muscles while standing and sitting. To encourage this virtuous behavior researchers from the Fraunhofer IAO (Institute of Industrial Engineering) and ISC (Institute for Silicate Research) have developed a special chair which acts as your personal trainer, sensing activity levels and posture. It can then recommend exercises and interactive games to give you a workout.
A chair fitted with pressure sensors works out body position from weight distribution and uses colored LEDs (or an app) to give feedback on your posture. According to Truong Le, a scientist at Fraunhofer IAO “we found after conducting many interviews with back pain sufferers as well as with various businesses and experts, that there was a strong demand for furniture to promote people’s back health while sitting. What’s important is that you have to put a bit of time into it”.

Pressure sensors work out weight distribution

Operating in standard mode, pressure sensors measure the weight distribution in the seat to identify incorrect posture, such as sitting at a bad angle or for too long in the same position. The sensor data is evaluated and transmitted to a PC, laptop, tablet computer or smartphone. The user is sent a reminder via feedback in the seat. On request, a display can show statistics over a certain period. A video will show any sitting posture or body angle identified as problematic. If appropriate, the user will be prompted to move. With the aid of a video guide, users can carry out an exercise routine which the sensors will also record.

The pressure sensors used are soft and sensitive and can be incorporated into the surface of a wide variety of different materials including mats, vehicle upholstery and steering wheels. The researchers at Fraunhofer IAO have demonstrated a special ‘intelligent’ chair as an example to show how the technology can be applied. It senses hip movements and uses them to control a paddle on the screen in a game of table tennis.