NEXposture Design

Design Problem

Humans are designed to move. Yet people everywhere spend the majority of time in a static, forward slumping posture while working with desktop technology – for hours on end. Kyphotic postures cause neck and spine stress that can lead to early wear, tear, pain, degeneration and even surgeries.

Desktop technology users commonly – and often instinctively – sacrifice proper postures and back support for long periods of time in order to effectively view the computer screen and position the hands and fingers over the keyboard and mouse, even if a static, forward-slumping posture results in significant strain to the body. 

NEXposture Design Challenge

An ergonomic chair and worksurface should work together like a ball and glove – but today they do not. Desktop workers should be able to move subconsciously without restriction – but today they cannot. Despite the ergonomic chair’s ability to provide movement and healthful semi-reclined postures to its user, fixed desks and desktop technology rob users from achieving movement and healthful postures.

The challenge is to create an nonrestrictive, desktop technology supportive work surface that allows the user, the work surface and desktop technology to all work in concert with one another. The work surface and technology should mirror the body’s desire for movement, encouraging continuous change and motion throughout the workday. Solving this challenge will improve user interface with technology while providing health and comfort advantages to the user.

NEXposture Design Objectives

  • Eliminate harmful forward slumping seated postures
  • Synchronize the work surface and technology with the user
  • Facilitate healthful reclined postures
  • Support and encourage seated movement and motion
  • Establish a new reference point in seated comfort
  • Create a positive design whereby people feel comfortable, happy, calm, and confident with an increased ability to grow and innovate

NEXposture Design

NEXposture flips the script on how we interface with desktop technology by revolutionizing the relationship between people and their desktop technology. People can now be in control of their desktop technology instead of being subservient to it.

With NEXposture’s Control Center, users can position their desktop technology in a manner that most effectively supports a full range of comfortable and healthful postures, from upright to semi-recline while maintaining proper eye-to-monitor distance and hand-to-input device distance, no matter the posture. 

NEXposture’s Control Center is part of a larger ergonomic ecosystem made up of three critical elements: the person, the ergonomic chair and desktop technology, Ergonomic success relies on all three elements of the ecosystem working in harmony with one another.

The connected fluidity of this new ecosystem has the ability to unleash previously untapped capabilities of ergonomic chairs, and more importantly, deliver a new reference point in comfort and health benefits to desktop technology users.

Optimal Back and Wrist Posture Design

MSDs account for 33% of all workers compensation claims, with back injuries accounting for 45.4% of total injuries and 6.4% are specific to wrist injuries. Between 6 and 10% of workers stopped working, changed jobs, or made a major change in work activities because of their low back pain.

Research has shown that semi-reclined postures of 110-115 degrees are significantly healthier to the spine than siting forward or upright (reference The Benefits of Recline white paper). Unlike traditional flat, fixed surfaces, NEXposture causes no (zero degree) wrist flexion during recline. As an ergonomic chair tilts reward, the user’s forearms and wrists move from their horizontal axis to a downward slope. NEXposture’s declined surface positions the keyboard on a similar angle as the forearms and wrists through the entire range of recline.

A 2009 research study (Rempel, Keir, Bach) examined the effect of wrist posture on carpal tunnel pressure while typing and concluded that keyboard wrist extension of 20-degrees begins to accentuate carpel tunnel pressure, and that greater than 30-degrees should be avoided.

Wrist angle, flat surface

Wrist angle, NEXposture

While there are varying perspectives regarding the relationship between extensive keying and carpal tunnel, an extensive medical study suggests that typing on a computer keyboard for more than 20-25 hours per week does not increase the risk of tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and arms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Although the common view has been that computer use may be linked to carpal tunnel syndrome, researchers (Anderson, Overgaard, Thomsen) say this study provides convincing evidence that working at a computer isn’t an occupational hazard for developing the condition

Help Eliminate Neck and Back Strain

When slumping forward at a standard desk for 50% of the day, gravity increases the weight of the head and stretches (strains) neck muscles and tendons which can lead to injury involving micro-tears and swelling. It also adds 40% additional pressure to the lumbar region which often leads to low back pain and injury.

When assuming a reclined posture of 110-115 degrees with NEXposture, the neck flexes automatically to balance the head’s center of gravity above the bottom of the neck, reducing neck and shoulder muscle activity and strain. Even better, moving frequently between different levels of recline moves the neck and spine through its range of motion which reduces static stress and increases circulation.

Preliminary EMG research indicated minimal EMG activity in the cervical paraspinals at 110-115 degrees of recline as compared to a substantial amount of EMG activity in those same groups associated with FHRS posture.

Design Approach

As part of the early design phase of NEXposture, prototypes were built with the objective to determine correct kinematic movement and motion between the work surface, the ergonomic chair and the user. Male and female subjects of varying sizes were selected for initial use testing along with a series of ergonomic work chair models.

Early NEXposture prototypes

Based on the range of seated postures, from an upright (90-degree) posture to 120-degrees of recline, a technology surface extension range (pullout) of 10 inches was discovered to accommodate the greatest range of user recline preferences and corresponding visual and reach requirements.

Research has shown that people do not adjust office chairs or office furniture which feature a variety of knobs and levers. NEXposture was designed with PostureBreak, a braking system that automatically locks the technology surface into place. When the user chooses to change postures, repositioning the technology surface is simple – squeeze the conveniently accessible paddle, move the surface to a newly desired position and release. Encouraging posture variation was the impetus behind the simplicity behind NEXposture. 

The kinematic tilting motion was observed for each of the tested ergonomic chairs. All chairs produced a rearward and downward motion (arc) throughout the range of recline. The team experimented with linking the technology surface angle of decline with a person’s range of motion while s/he reclined in the chair. Six degrees of surface decline was determined to most effectively follow the chair and user’s movement while providing for constant eye-to-monitor and hand-to-keyboard and mouse distances. 

Technology surface at six degrees of decline

While establishing the proper surface extension and angle of decline, it was imperative in the design process to maintain healthful principles through a range of postures, from upright to fully recline: 

  • Pelvis, lumbar and thoracic regions to maintain contact with chair’s backrest
  • Ensure shoulders remain relaxed and not raised
  • Elbows remain close to the body and at a 90-100 degree angle
  • Maintain an arm’s length of distance to the monitor

The NEXposture surface was designed to accommodate a range of technology and equipment, including monitor arms,single or dual monitors, laptops and notebook with the ability to support 35 lbs. of desktop equipment.