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Mom always said, "Sit up straight..." Well, here's a hardware project to help with that...

Today's Hardware Friday post shows off an interesting usage of an accelerometer and one that for many of use would not only proudly display our hardware building geekness, but also improve our health too!

Posture Regulator using .NET Gadgeteer Accelerometer from Seeed Studio

People who work in technology often spend many hours at the computer, which can make it difficult to maintain good posture. I’ve been advised by a physical therapist to keep my chest high with my head and neck upright. The problem is that fatigue tends to make me slouch. Then my neck is out of alignment, leading to some unpleasant grinding of vertibrae and tension in the shoulders.

The .NET Gadgeteer device in this example uses the Seeed accelerometer module, which can be calibrated with a single function to set the base position that should be maintained. I use a relay module, also from Seeed Studio, to activate a beeper when the Z axis of my posture varies too far from the calibrated normal.

The accelerometer is similar to the sensor in a cell phone that detects whether the phone is in the horizontal or vertical orientation. The methods that the Seeed module supports are more than adequate for this application. There is a method to calibrate the position from which variation is measured. Monitoring the Z axis of the variation is sufficient to detect the kind of slouching I’m trying to avoid. For this prototype I simply attached the accelerometer to my sweater with a safety pin, as shown in the following photo.

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Posture Regulator with LED Alert – Silent

This is a second iteration on the device using a Seeed accelerometer as posture sensor that sends alerts when the user’s posture lapses from the position desirable for working extended periods in the seated position. The previous version used a buzzer on a relay circuit as an alert. It produced a sound that could drive one to distraction. This version uses a LED that simply turns red when the user wearing the accelerometer slouches or leans too far from the desirable vertical position.

The modules used in this application are shown in the following screen shot from the .NET Gadgeteer Designer.

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Posture Accelerometer Sensor LED Alert

This implementation of the posture sensor is different from the previous version in that it doesn’t require a relay circuit to turn on a buzzer. It uses the GHI Electronics multicolored LED module. It also uses the Seeed OLED Display module instead of the larger and more expensive Display T35 from GHI Electronics.

The application logic is similar in this version to the previous except that it omits the relay circuit and turns on the LED instead of the buzzer. The following illustration shows the working components.

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One surprising discovery in this version is that the Accelerometer.StartContinuousMeasurements method has to be set at a lower frequency than the previous version. Having the relay running on the board changed the configuration so that the button could interupt the continuous measurements and turn off the measurements. In this version I found that pushing the on/ off button had no effect until I slowed the rate of continuous measurements.

Come on, what hardware hacker wouldn't want to wear something like that? Now to make it portable, and report posture results to a web site (and tweet them?), maybe some Bluetooth integration to an app, and... and... and...

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  • MikeDodaroMikeDodaro Mike Dodaro

    Lately it's been my wife and a physical therapist telling me not to slouch, but Mom would have said the same thing.  Keep me posted on extensions to this scenario.  I'll be online as long as my back and neck can stand it.

  • Brian JimdarBrianJimdar Seattle Area developer

    Cool. Jamie and Jeremy wrote a similar iPhone app a while back. http://www.freshapps.com/upright/

  • secretGeeksecretGeek

    Protip:
    study confirms that the ultimate sitting posture is a 130 degree slouch

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6187080.stm

    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=5780423&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fxpls%2Fabs_all.jsp%3Farnumber%3D5780423

  • IrwindIrwind

    There are also so many video uploading sites, and these also give facility for distribution their video tutorials, but I think YouTube is the finest.

  • Jeff McEachronJeff McEachron

    This is very cool! I'd have to completely change my "coding position," but it just might help me fix my sore back! I ran into this blog post because I'm looking for an accelerometer application to "measure" abuse of tablets or laptops. There are a lot of funny videos out there, but my favorite one is probably from MobileDemand.

    Tablet PC Used as a Hammer
    http://www.ruggedtabletpc.com/resources/tablet-pc-as-a-hammer/

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