New 'Smart Desk' Senses When You Need to Stand or Sit

An affordable new desk uses artificial intelligence to learn your preferences.

By on June 23, 2015

You’ve probably heard about the dangers of sitting all day, and if you work in an office, you might be familiar with traditional standing desks. But now there’s a new desk coming to market, which has met its goal on Kickstarter and continues to collect backers, that is taking the work desk to the next level with artificial intelligence.

There are several key arguments as to why standing desks are the superior option. For one, sitting all day is legitimately bad for our bodies. “Too many people are afflicted by ‘tech neck’ — that pain that's caused from poor posture all day from poorly placed computer monitors and looking down to use our cell phones,” says Shane Allen, a personal trainer and weight management expert. Sitting for long periods of time can also have serious effects on the spine and negatively affect your metabolism.

Standing up while you work has clear benefits. "A 2013 study by the University of Chester found that those who stand at work burned an average of 50 more calories per hour as compared to sitting,” says Jon Paulsen, a certified professional ergonomist and engineer. "Peer-reviewed studies by American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport and Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine have shown that the use of sit-stand desks among study participants resulted in an average productivity boost of 42 percent, an average 45 percent reduction in musculoskeletal pain, more vigor and significantly less fatigue, tension, confusion and depression." But standing all day can also lead to significant strain on the feet, calves and thighs.

The smartest solution is alternating between sitting and standing, to make sure blood is moving while also avoiding undue strain to the lower half of your body. But many of the cheapest standing desks don’t really offer this ability; they’re simply lifts placed on top of a normal desk to elevate your computer up to eye level while you stand. That’s of no use if you want to choose the healthiest path: alternating standing and sitting. Stools can help, but sometimes people rely on them so much that they forget to stand at all.

So the best option so far has been to get a motorized desk, one that elevates and lowers to allow you to both sit and stand. The Wirecutter, a site that performs extensive reviews to pick out the best product in each consumer category, recommends this type of desk, but they can be expensive. The Wirecutter’s top two recommendations cost $700 and $1,500, respectively.

But the standing desk is evolving. A project called the Autonomous Desk has stormed far past its funding goal, and is offering something unique: a motorized standing desk with built-in artificial intelligence (AI), all starting at just $299. The AI aspect might be the most interesting: the desk has a speaker built into its underside, and it can respond to spoken directions to perform tasks like playing music or calling for an Uber, and it can even speak back at you to alert you to calendar appointments. The AI also learns your preferred height for both sitting and standing, and will automatically adjust when it’s time to switch from one mode to the other. With everything we’ve learned in recent years about the dangers of sitting all day, along with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s not that strange to imagine a desk similar to this one in every cubicle sometime in the near future.

Tags: smart learning, Smart technology, health