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Physical Computing   |    UI/UX    |    Internet of Things

Duration : 2 weeks
Project Type : Course Assignment, OCAD University, Toronto
Prototyping Tools : Feather Huzzah, Adafruit IO, IFTTT, P5.js, C++, Adobe Photoshop


Introduction

Health related issues are common among professionals due to the nature of their work, long hours of computer usage and lack of movement. The mental stress caused by work load, the physical strain due to bad ergonomics and sedentary life style can lead to back pain, cardio-vascular diseases, obesity and even premature death. In medical terms, most of these effects fall under Repetitive Stress Injury.

The objective of this project is to identify the major causes of health issues among working professionals and use design intervention to minimize the effects.

Process Overview

Research & Analysis

Primary research was conducted through ethnographic observation and interviews. This helped in understanding the habits that people develop while working in an office space. Interviews were done to identify the recognized symptoms of repetitive stress injury.

Existing literature and case studies were studied to understand the health hazards and what are their impacts. The findings from research are summarized below.



Design Brief

To design a tracking and a non-disruptive alert system for health hazards in office/ work space. This system should encourage professionals to develop healthy work habits.

Concept

Posture Tracking and Monitoring

The sitting posture can be detected by analyzing the region of the chair which is in contact with the body. If three sensors that can detect pressure are attached to the chairs, it can detect the sitting posture and also the duration for which the person remain seated.



To read the posture and keep track of it a sensor system had to be designed. The sensors had to detect whether a person is sitting on the chair and the sitting posture.

These sensors along with a compact circuit board with wireless capabilities can detect the user's posture and log them into a database. This informantion can also be tracked in real-time to provide the user with alerts. For example , if users had been in a bad posture for more than 5 minutes, they can be reminded to correct their posture. They can also be provided with reports on their workplace habits, posture etc.

For this purpose, along with the hardware components, a mobile app will also be used to alert users and to provide the reports.



Designing the Hardware

To read the posture and keep track of it a sensor system had to be designed. The sensors had to detect whether a person is sitting on the chair and the sitting posture.

As it is an extra addition to the chair, it should not cause discomfort to the users. So custom pressure sensors made of conductive fabric were designed. These sensors along with a compact circuit board with wireless capabilities can detect the user's posture and log them into a database using cloud services.



Sensor Design

The sensor will detect pressure when the chair is being used. Soft materials are used to avoid discomfort.
The two strips of conductive fabric are separated by a windowed foam sheet. these two conductive sheets will be in contact if a person leans on it. This can be detected by the microcontroller.





Experience Flow

Initially the users will have to setup the device at their work place. Then the device should be connected to the app. Once this set up is done users will start receiving alerts and reports continuouly without any further action. The expericence flow can be summarized as in the flowchart below


Wireframes

Following are the wireframes for the app that users will use to view reports and receive alerts.

Rapid Prototyping

To quickly prototype the concept, the device was made using a feather microcontroller and a P5.js sketch was used as the replacement for the mobile app.

The system has three components, The hardware (Sensor and circuit), Cloud services, and the UI.



Three sensors were made using conductive fabric and were attached to a chair. These sensors will send the data to a Feather Huzzah microcontroller which was mounted below the chair. This data was uploaded to Adafruit IO cloud services using MQTT and further uploaded to Google sheets for storing them and generating reports.





Data from the microcontroller was thenuploaded to Adafruit IO cloud services using MQTT and further uploaded to Google sheets for storing them and generating reports. An 8 hour test run was done to capture the data.



The Test Run.



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