Robot arms!

Tara Hickman’s ergonomic armrests for chairs, and someone’s question about standing desks, reminded me of this patient from Grey’s Anatomy. He’s paralyzed from the neck down but still able to walk by connecting his brain activity to this nice robot suit.

The reason I thought of him (assuming it’s not immediately clear to you all) is because his limbs are fully supported and he’s standing. It got me thinking, instead of designing arm rests that attach to a chair, what if we designed arm rests that attach to a body? If the users are not restricted to the chair, they can work while sitting, standing, or walking around. Not only do they have support, but also they have the freedom of mobility. This simple ability to take breaks and stretch every once in awhile is crucial for preventing musculoskeletal disorders.

Instead of changing how we sit at work, let’s change how we work.

As Professor Intriligator explained in the HF GIM, Human Factors is not just about the physical components of a design but also the cognitive and emotional ones. So instead of studying how a person sits at a desk, let’s find out why they do that. What are they thinking and how are they feeling? It’s step #1 of design thinking: empathy. If people don’t like sitting for long periods of time, instead of making sitting more comfortable, let’s just eliminate sitting. It’s that simple. Think about it this way: if I told you that I wanted a pet but that I was allergic to cats, would you get me a cat and some allergy meds or would you get me a dog?

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