What if you had a desk to cater to your needs that could automatically adjust the temperature, lighting, and chair height? The health benefits for those who sit in a desk for hours at a time could be numerous.
Now, Burcin Becerik-Gerber, associate professor in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her team of researchers are working to make smart desks a reality, according to USC Viterbi.
The desk would be able to collect data from the user with sensors that could measure temperature, light intensity, humidity, air speed, as well as the individual’s body positions, skin temperature and heart rate. It would also monitor if the person were practicing unhealthy habits such as squinting and hunching. After a week of monitoring, the desk could predict the user’s preferred settings for thermal, visual and posture comfort, and would also suggest tips that could improve health and productivity.
“Our goals for this project are to assume improved postures, increase thermal comfort range, decrease continuous sitting time, and to provide a dynamic lighting environment that supports human circadian rhythm and reduces discomfort,” said Becerik-Gerber. “This smart desk will impact millions of office workers and the workplace by changing the way we interact with regular objects in everyday life. It will continuously learn and negotiate around the bounds of users’ comfort, adaptively and over time.”
In the past few years, Bercerik-Gerber and her team have collaborated with Arup, a global engineering and design firm. The team has created three versions of the desk that include elements such as light intensity sensors, personal heating and cooling remedies.
“Long-term, we imagine that the technology embedded in the desk will help creating the workplace of the future,” said Francesco Anselmo, lead researcher from Arup. “The sensing and user interface systems we have developed will redefine our experience with buildings, contributing to improve individual and societal productivity and creating healthier environments that promote well-being.”
The participants involved in creating the smart desk believe this could be eye-opening to individuals who have desk jobs.
“I believe that our research has a lot of value in the real world,” said Ashrant Aryal, current Ph.D. student in civil engineering. “It won’t be just research that stays as an academic paper.”
“The goal is definitely to commercialize this workstation,” Becerik-Gerber said. “We envision an unprecedented intelligent workplace – one that can co-evolve with its users to bring their preferences in line with the healthiest practices. We expect this system will represent an apparent advance in the ability for intelligent machines to collaborate with their users.”