We all know that it's important to sit up straight, and to not stay seated for too long. With that in mind, researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institutes for Industrial Engineering and for Silicate Research have developed an LED-equipped stool that coaches people in their sitting.
Along with LEDs, the stool is also outfitted with multiple flexible pressure sensors, each one consisting of an insulating film sandwiched by two electrode layers made of conductive silicone. By measuring the user's weight distribution, these sensors are able to determine if the person is sitting ergonomically – more specifically, they detect if the user is seated at an improper angle, or is maintaining one posture for too long.
That data is wirelessly transmitted to a computer or mobile device, where it's processed by a custom app, then transmitted back to the stool. It responds by illuminating its LEDs in certain colors, letting the user know that they need to make a change.
The user can then consult the app screen to see a video illustrating what the problem is, along with suggestions on how to correct it. That app can also guide users through exercises intended to alleviate problems caused by their improper posture, with the sensors detecting if they're doing the exercises correctly.
Fraunhofer is currently demonstrating the system on Germany's MS Wissenschaft exhibition ship, in a setup where two players control their movements in a game of electronic table tennis by swinging their pelvis on a couple of the stools. Down the road, the sensing technology could also be integrated into more practical applications, such as mats or office chairs.
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