Of chairs and smart phones

A week ago, I received an email from my editor to write on the topic of relating chairs to smart phones. My reaction? I was stupefied and quite disoriented to be honest. It seemed awfully tangential that it sounded more close to the relationship between a piano and a brownie or a mirror and perfume. Do you get any links? No? I am sure you are sharing the same reaction I had when I started out so don’t worry. I assure you, that both you and I will be quite surprised as to how this story is about to unfold.

I got my first cue when I closed my email, which I was religiously reading from my cell phone while lounging on my three-seater sofa. Back in the day, a couch potato was referred to a person, spending too much time in front of a television. Yet, in this situation, I was the couch potato although I did not engage with a television. Today, the term could be attributed to most of us during activities of work and leisure because it certainly involves a ‘smart’ gadget comfortably seated in our hands attached to a person who is mostly seated for hours together. With the dawn of the smart phone the old adage ‘Your life is in your hands’ couldn’t be truer in its very sense both literally and figuratively.

A smartphone in your hands

A smartphone in your hands

A typical couch potato of the 90’s

A typical couch potato of the 90’s

With the proliferation of these devices that enable us to have a virtual presence at all times, it is also true that it has rendered us as nearly senile in our physical worlds in order to perpetuate an active virtual lifestyle. We may not be far from the sad existence of the human race as some science fiction movies like ‘Wall E’ and ‘Surrogates’ portray.
“Sitting is the new smoking” is a study by Richard A Lovett and also has a documentary by the same title. It is evident that on the average, we spend more time sitting to use a smart phone or a computer than for any other activity.

A scene from the science fiction movie- Wall E

A scene from the science fiction movie- Wall E

A scene from a workplace- Probably playing Second Life?

A scene from a workplace- Probably playing Second Life?

At this juncture, the crisis to be addressed is how chairs or seating equipment (more generally) represent the ‘smart era’. It is noticeable amongst design societies, how things of daily use shape and are shaped in accordance to the time and trend they belong to. In the case of chairs, we have come a long way from the intricately carved Victorian chair to the Panton Chair and Gehry inspired Corrugated chair.

A luxury chair from the Victorian Era

A luxury chair from the Victorian Era

Panton Chair-Vitra from the 60’s

Panton Chair-Vitra from the 60’s

The Gehry inspired Wiggle chair made from Corruagted boards

The Gehry inspired Wiggle chair made from Corruagted boards

Chairs not only imply seating, but they also express prevalent ideologies, trends and social makeup of the age they’re created in. Each of the images above reflects what I stated. Yet, in an age that is considered ‘smart’ aren’t our chairs are still ‘sitting back’ in time. Is it time for the dawn of the smart chair too?

Well, if that be it, what would you want your smart chair to look like or do? Posed with the same question, I would say that it should definitely tell me when to get up and run when I have reached my day’s sitting quota, and most certainly enable me to organize my daily activities between work and play. I would also like my smart chair to recognize its sitters and adapt to their body contours for optimized lumbar support. To add one more important feature, I would like to embed everything that my Smartphone could ever do, and yet be smarter beyond it. I might add that it projects a touch screen between its two ends, so I am truly hands-free. This could also imply desk-free workspaces and space saving offices. Now, it does seem that the possibilities are endless and I have only begun my list. If a chair could package all these possibilities, maybe then all we need in the living room, bedroom and maybe even our workplace put together is just a smart chair.

Perhaps, you should start with a list too and call it ‘List of apps in my smart chair’, and maybe in a smarter age, we could definitely count on a smarter chair to get the better of us. Having said all that, I believe that the smartest chair of all, would be the one that lets me switch off my smart gadget and lets me just enjoy the pure bliss of sitting and perhaps bending over for a real conversation. That said, we already have smart chairs, don’t we? It relies on human nature to make smart choices, too.

By: Carola Winnie

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