Feds Shell Out $300K to Study More Comfy Office Chairs

Brittany M. Hughes | September 25, 2015

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Office Depot might have some competition.

The federal government must be pretty concerned about all your aches and pains, since they kindly just handed $300,000 in taxpayer dollars to Rutgers University to research and develop a more comfortable office chair...while also somehow improving gender diversity. Apparently, sitting for a long time has “become a significant public health problem” – but never fear! Uncle Sam is here to help.

Here’s the (fairly scientific) summary of the project from the grant description itself (via the National Science Foundation):

Computers and Internet use have dramatically transformed our life style and exposed us to many significant occupational health hazards including neck and shoulder pains and low back pain associated with long-time sitting. These hazards have become a significant public health problem both in the US and the rest of the world. Although many lifestyle-related risk factors have been identified, effective monitoring and management is lacking to prevent the occurrence of these diseases in long term. The aim of this project, in partnership with Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, is develop a first smart active chair to prevent injuries and improve office safety.

The intellectual merit of this proposed exploratory research is that our research leads to a new paradigm of proactive preventing unhealthy lifestyle based on multimodal sensing research and technology. The investigators develop a novel method to predict neck, back and shoulder joint loading and muscle forces in real-time and to develop a personalized and real-time intervention system to automatically reconfigure the workstation and chair to reduce the injury/disorder risk.

The broader impact is that our project achieves substantial reduction in office-related health disorders, such as lower back pain, promoting improved lifestyle quality in the office and in our homes. The proposed research results in a unique and diverse generation of undergraduate and graduate researchers capable to address this new class of multidisciplinary problems and encourages active participation of women and underrepresented.


Well, we’re paying for it. Anyone think we’ll get a discount?