Are you sitting comfortably?

Does your chair ask you whether you are sitting comfortably? It may seem futuristic but the technology is available to monitor an occupant’s comfort in a seat and automatically adjust the lumbar support, back rest angle or head rest height, for instance, to provide real time posture control.

We know that sitting isn't always the optimum experience for your health and that we need to stretch and exercise our muscles, but this often isn't realistic, especially when you are travelling. Usually most of us wait until our back lets us know that we are doing damage though aches and pains before we do anything proactively to improve our seated comfort. We are even less likely to readjust our seat geometry to properly suit the demands of individual activities. In any case, it is often challenging to determine what combination of the multitude of available adjustments is actually going to achieve your personal optimal set up. The “one size fits all” mentality adopted for the majority of seat designs now feels like an out of date concept. Now, whether you are travelling in a car, a plane or a train, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to improve your comfort, posture and health.
When setting out to design a chair, one of the first considerations is how firm or soft the seat should be. The received wisdom is that a seat should be soft for initial engagement, then firmer for the long haul. The basis of this approach is that when you first sit down you want to feel that initial embrace of the cushion (softness) and then as you relax into the journey, your seat needs to feel supportive in your optimum position (firmer) with a degree of flex providing the ability to shift your position slightly to relieve local pressure points or discomforts. This combination of softness, support and flex is what provides the comfort factor.
There are great examples of well-designed wooden chairs that can be surprisingly comfortable due to the natural give of this material when you initially sit down, the firm support after this initial contact, and the natural spring or flexibility when you move around.

The concept of dynamic comfort is one where a seat adapts in real time to provide support where it is needed and adjusts over the length of journey to maintain a constant level of comfort over time. Harnessing the power of machine learning to process the inputs from a range of sources including pressure sensors and posture recognition software, we are benchmarking and developing new seats that provide this all important dynamic comfort factor.

The key step is to correlate real-time AI learning with seat movement to build a chair that makes micro-adjustments on the fly to keep your body comfortable in the optimum seated position.

The key is to correlate real-time AI learning with seat movement to provide dynamic comfort.

It is no longer just luxury, top of the range cars that offer a seat memory function to automatically return the seat to your pre-selected preferred settings. But how can a user be sure that these settings are actually optimal for them, and are the same settings always the most suitable in all situations? With AI there is now an opportunity to monitor the user’s behaviour in their seat and dynamically adjust the seat’s settings using the electrically powered adjustment mechanisms already provided on these seats.

The combinations of human body structure, weight, size and other physical variables, not to mention our own individual views on what we perceive as comfortable, are seemingly endless. So currently, compromises have to be made when designing seating to meet set constraints like a given seat height and width or a range of target user percentiles from 5% female to 95% male physiques. The aim of dynamic comfort is to avoid these compromises and get the chair to automatically and unobtrusively adjust to suit the user’s physique, posture and task, optimising your comfort level to suit your own personal preferences, while not irritating you through a constant series of micro-adjustments.

The automotive industry has now introduced seats that stiffen the bolsters when you are taking a corner at speed. This is a specific, controlled scenario but it shows the potential of automated control. We believe that AI can be harnessed, in conjunction with pressure sensors and posture recognition algorithms, to control seat adjustments in a practical and effective way to create seats with dynamic comfort features that deliver real comfort benefits for users.

Designing seats to actively look after your back and posture better than you could yourself must be an adjustment in the right direction.

But how can a user be sure that the seat settings are optimal for them?

Are you sitting comfortably?

Published on: 20th December 2021