a flexible Office chair as ubiquitous Input device

Furniture elements can be found everywhere, pervasively embedded into our daily life, barely noticed as functional tools or design elements. Currently, we see more and more devices with embedded sensing and communication capabilities. We believe that furniture provides a particularly interesting design space for fitting interactive technologies in our everyday life, as it is an integral part of our physical environment that can be ubiquitously accessed, and provides familiar simple operations and appealing tangible material properties. For example, while a chair is normally just a well-designed and robust device that supports sitting we developed an interactive chair interface that consists of a flexible office chair equipped with motion-sensing capabilities. Taking advantage of human capabilities to perform simple motor activities while sitting (e.g., tilting, rotating, bouncing), we to explored the design space for chair gestures as novel input modality.

Growing focus on the ergonomics of sitting has evolved with the emergence of innovative products that provide increased freedom of move­ment and dynamic transition between postures (i.e., active sitting). Based on the inherent characteristics of such flexible chairs, we believe they can provide attractive features that recommend them as alternative input technology in a desktop environment. First of all, chair-based gestures can be used to expand the input bandwidth of desktop work. Relying on simple kinesthetic movement patterns of the lower body (e.g., swinging hips to the side), such semaphoric chair gestures can be mapped directly to specific input commands. In demonstration of this kind of chair-based application control, we implemented an interactive chair interface that is based on a commercially available flexible office chair. Based on an active suspension system, the chair provides three degrees of freedom in horizontal and vertical direction, which allows for dynamic operation through tilting, rotating, or bouncing move­ments.

CaptureIn an iterative design process, we conducted a guessability-style user study  to investigate possible chair gestures, conducted Wizard of Oz experiment to collect initial user feedback, and performed a controlled experiment that compared chair-based input to state-of-the-art keyboard and touch input. We implemented two application scenarios that utilize these gestures in the context of focused (i.e., web browsing) and peripheral (i.e., music control) interaction with a desktop computer. Results of a comparison between chair, keyboard, and touch interaction indicate that the novel chair input techni­que is par­ticularly supportive for peripheral interaction due to the benefits of always-avail­able, eyes-free, hands-free operation. Furthermore, participants enjoyed the possible diversification of interactions, and introduction of light physical activity into the work routine. The embodied aspects of chair-based input facilitated interaction, and resulted in significant reduction of resumption lags. Based on these uni­que features, we believe gestural chair interaction is a promising alternative for opportunistic interaction with non-critical peripheral tasks, as they enable users to effortlessly interact with an application and rap­idly re-focus on other ongoing activities. Similarly, we extended this concept towards other types of smart fur­niture interfaces such as interactive desks, floors…