A Postural Awareness System for the Cervical Spine
Human-Computer Interaction, Fall 2013
Team NeckGraffe won 3rd place in the 2014 CHI Student Design Competition in Toronto!
Common, complex, and burdensome to individuals and society alike, neck pain is estimated to affect more than 70% of the population at some point in life and between 12-34% of the population at a given time, with one study finding that 45.5% of office workers experienced neck pain in a 12-month period (Cagnie, Dannee, Van Tiggelen, Loose, and Cambier, 2007). Among other factors, frequent computer use is commonly associated with increased risk of neck pain (Hakala, Rimpela, Saarni, and Salminen, 2006; Cagnie et al., 2007; Taieb-Maimon, Cwikel, Shapira, and Orenstein, 2012).
Understanding the Problem Space
Healthy posture may be part of the solution to the widespread problem of neck pain. Improvements in posture are associated with decreased musculoskeletal symptoms (Falla, Jull, Russell, Vicenzino, and Hodges, 2007; Taieb-Maimon et al., 2012). Users have responded positively to personalized interventions that facilitate postural awareness using real-time data. While ergonomic education can provide short-term benefits, interventions involving ongoing feedback and instruction to reinforce the desired behavior have been shown to improve ergonomics and maintain those improvements over time (Taieb-Maimon et al., 2012).
Our four-person team designed a postural reminder system to help users keep track of and improve their neck posture. We created a prototype for a mobile application to remind the user when he or she assumed an unhealthy posture, and conceptualized a wearable device to be affixed to the user’s neck. The wearable sensor would contain an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure cervical positioning and a vibration motor to give gentle buzzing (duration and intensity fully customizable) upon detection of unhealthy forward head posture. The app helps the user track their current and historical postural data and even includes levels-based badges and social features to keep users motivated to stand tall.
I conducted research on links between posture and pain, designed the mobile app mockup, contributed to prototype development, and helped design the evaluation.
Storyboard of how the NeckGraffe system would be used
Mobile app mockups in Balsamiq
Wearable neck sensor concept
Initial Axure prototype
Redesign for CHI
We submitted our design to the 2014 CHI Student Design Competition. After we learned that NeckGraffe was one of the 12 semifinalists accepted out of 60-some entries, we decided to update the design to conform more closely to iOS standards. I co-wrote and co-edited the final paper with Rushil, while Tulika was in charge of the redesign.
As mentioned above, we won 3rd place.
CHI Proceedings Article:
Khurana, R., Marinelli, E., Saraf, T., & Li, S. (2014). NeckGraffe: A postural awareness system. In CHI ‘14 Extended Abstracts: ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Proceedings (pp. 227-232). DOI: 10.1145/2559206.2580936
Cagnie, B., Danneels, L., Tiggelen, D. V., Loose, V. D., & Cambier, D. (2007). Individual and work related risk factors for neck pain among office workers: a cross sectional study. European Spine Journal, 16(5), 679-686.
Falla, D., Jull, G., Russell, T., Vicenzino, B., & Hodges, P. (2007). Effect of neck exercise on sitting posture in patients with chronic neck pain. Physical Therapy, 87(4), 408-417.
Hakala, P. T., Rimpelä, A. H., Saarni, L. A., & Salminen, J. J. (2006). Frequent computer-related activities increase the risk of neck–shoulder and low back pain in adolescents. European Journal of Public Health, 16(5), 536-541.
Taieb-Maimon, M., Cwikel, J., Shapira, B., & Orenstein, I. (2012). The effectiveness of a training method using self-modeling webcam photos for reducing musculoskeletal risk among office workers using computers. Applied Ergonomics, 43(2), 376-385.