Sensing Chair


The long-term goal of this project is to develop a sensing chair that can track its occupant's seating postures in real time using surface-mounted pressure distribution sensors.

The idea of a sensing chair was originally conceived while I was working with Alex (Sandy) Pentland at the MIT Media Lab. Unlike many perceptual user interfaces for smart environments that focus mainly on the automatic processing of images and sounds using cameras and microphones, a sensing chair tracks its occupant's postures with surface-mounted pressure distribution sensors that function like a layer of "artificial skin". Pressure sensors have been widely used for the evaluation of seats, beds and shoes by furniture and shoe designers. The sensing chair project is unique in that it uses pressure sensors in real-time to drive other applications. For example, a sensing car seat can automatically control the deployment force of an airbag; and a sensing office chair can help its occupant maintain healthy postures throughout the day.

Sensor Data

Shown above are the pressure distribution patterns (in psydo color) on the seatpan for seated upright (left) and for seated with left foot on the seatpan (right). The top and the bottom of the figures correspond to the front and back of the torso, respectively. The data are collected with the Body Pressure Measurement System (BPMS) manufacturered by Tekscan Inc. in South Boston, Massachusetts.