Researchers at Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are working toward their goal of making machines compliant to humans. In Professor John Morrell’s laboratory they have developed the Vibrotactile Posture Feedback Chair, which uses cell phone vibrators to alert a person when he or she is sitting incorrectly.
Showcased at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Haptics Symposium last month, their prototype is actually an Aeron chair retrofitted with six force-sensitive resistors, or tactors, and one distance sensor. Morrell says he hopes the device will prevent people from slouching.
“The vibration is supposed to be an annoyance,” says Ying Zheng, who is working with Morrell. When a person slouches, leans too far forward, or crosses his legs, the tactors in those regions vibrate or pulsate as a reminder to use the right posture.
Morrell said he was first inspired to pursue the idea after visiting a physical therapist due to pain from sitting at a computer for long periods of time. He said he was constantly forgetting his therapist’s instructions, which led him and Zheng to evaluate the use of touch to remind people to sit upright with their spines in a neutral position, as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition to the chair, Morrell’s laboratory is developing a robot that can open doors for the disabled or in dangerous situations.
Photo credit: Brianne Bowen/Yale Daily News