The modern, societal trend of increased occupational sedentarism has rendered poor posture and consequential musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), a prevalent issue that if addressed through design, will encompass and engage numerous individuals from multiple demographics. Within the realm of designing for kinaesthetic awareness, this represents a unique opportunity to utilise HCI to simulate creative awareness. The daily activities of prolonged periods of sitting or standing at the workplace, provide a framework for examining the movement patterns and bio-mechanical mechanisms that underpin posture through application of wearable technology systems.
Research into this field has yielded a direct correlation between poor posture and the efficiency of muscle use. The deeper layers of the human body consist of static muscle fibres which are intended for use throughout activities that require endurance and limited energy expenditure, such as holding the back in a straight position for a prolonged period. Phasic or fast twitch muscle fibres are often assigned tasks involving high levels of movement and force, thus demanding comparably larger amounts of energy. A consequence of poor posture is that these fibres are often incorrectly substituted resulting in fatigue, wear, muscle tightness and injury. The advent of compact, low energy sensory technologies such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, electrogoniometers and EMG surface electrodes present a unique opportunity to detect, monitor and record human movement patterns in a non-invasive way, enabling rapid detection and diagnosis of the subsequent muscular imbalances, tension and fatigue that manifest as a result of habitual slouching.
The objective of this Honours Project has been to investigate the potential for this technology to be integrated into a prototype of an unobtrusive, wearable garment that gathers data about an individual’s posture to be employed as a feedback system applicable as a self-care, rehab or diagnosis tool. The modalities of this feedback system, such as data sonification or visualisation are explored and evaluated according to their effectiveness.
It’s the hope that such a device will act as a catalyst for kinaesthetic awareness regarding posture and will assist individuals and physicians to recognise instances of poor posture and subsequently improve their quality of movement.