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June 12, 2018

Color-changing LED stools let you know if you’re sitting with bad posture

by John_A

Sitting down for hours on end is bad for you. But what is the best way to prompt folks to get up and stretch their legs every so often? Looking for a solution to that very issue has previously led designers, technologists and engineers to create everything from standing desks to the Apple Watch’s periodic reminders that you should get up and move around. A new effort from German research organization Fraunhofer may be our favorite approach yet, however.

They have developed a special LED stool which is designed to encourage healthy sitting, and prompt “active, conscious movements” while a person is sitting down. The health benefits of promoting healthy back movements could not just help reduce back pain (an obvious side effect of sitting with poor posture), but also cardiovascular problems, excess weight, and high blood pressure, which can result from an inactive lifestyle.

The stool is fitted with a variety of sensors and LEDs which offer color-coded feedback regarding the way that you are sitting, as well as providing more detailed information through a connected app. The pressure sensors in the stool identify incorrect posture through measuring a user’s weight distribution on the seat. The seat can even lead you through defined movement exercises.

Oh, and did we mention the games? That’s right: since this is a proof of concept, the researchers went one step further and constructed a gaming table which lets people play seat-related games. Okay, so a game that you control by sitting nicely doesn’t sound amazing, but in this case the results are pretty neat. The researchers reworked classic titles like Pong, in which you control the on-screen paddles by making certain pelvic movements.

“We know from scientific research that the balancing movements have a positive impact on mental performance in terms of concentration and productivity,” Nguyen-Truong Le, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “By playing games in such ways at work, social interaction with co-workers can be improved.”

There are no immediate plans for commercialization. Instead, the researchers point to this as a demonstration of its soft pressure sensors. These can be built into a wide range of environments, including not only stools, but also mats, steering wheels, and far more. They could therefore be used for a wide variety of applications. Don’t give up hope if you’re dreaming of getting your hands on these smart stools, though. “There will be an open-source distribution of the instructions, including the CAD files and the software to rebuild this product idea,” Le continued. “Everyone can benefit from this project.”

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