Project Brief

As an exercise in creating an "enchanted object" for a design interaction course, our team of Northwestern graduate students (MS-EDI and MS/MBA) chose to create a chair that improves well-being and productivity in co-working spaces. 

Overview

Over the course of this two-week project, our cross-disciplinary team explored relevant research to learn more about recommended sitting and working habits and designed and wrote code for a chair to apply these recommendations while also fulfilling the needs of users in co-working spaces and office setting. The final design used multi-modal means of subtly indicating the passage of time to users and coworkers, making the chair a pleasure both to use and to share space with. 

Roles I Played

  • Literature review

  • Electromechanical prototyping

Research

I conducted a literature review and helped my team members do a market survey to help our team understand the competitive landscape of convertible (sitting to standing) desks, chairs, watches, and applications that issue reminders to users about when to stand up and move throughout the day. We loosely based our chair's coding on the premise of the Pomodoro Technique, a method of time management that incorporates breaks between 25-minute work sessions. 

Iterations

We used a laser cutter to prototype the arm-rest sleeve that would hold the visual indicator of the time elapsed and time remaining.

 

Our electromechanical prototyping consisted of some "MacGyver prototyping," in which we used the lid of a glass jar to amplify the vibrations produced in the seat's cushion.

Solution

In order to assess whether the chair is occupied, a proximity sensor measures the distance of objects from the chair and, when activated, an LED ring illuminates. Following the principles of skeuomorphism, our team designed the LED ring to count down like a kitchen timer, clockwise for increasing time as the timer "winds up" to the pre-programmed 25-minute working period, counter-clockwise for decreasing time as the session progresses. The circle of LEDs was intentionally placed out of the user's line of sight to avoid visual distraction. A second set of LEDs is located on the back of the chair to inform others in the environment how much time the person in the chair has left before getting up to reduce non-emergent interruptions.

When one quarter of the time is remaining, the seat chair vibrates to give a subtle warning to the user that their time is almost up, and when the time is completely up a stick taps the user under their legs in the back of the knees. It was important to use a silent method of warning and ending the session, given the potential use of this product in offices, libraries, or other-wise quiet areas. Tapping under the knees signals "get up and go," and is attention-grabbing since this is not a frequently stimulated part of the body.