Linguists and cognitive scientists have been telling us for decades that “any day now” we would be interacting with computers using only our voices. In the last several years, we have gotten closer to that elusive goal with the emergence of voice-activated digital assistants that handle simple, everyday tasks on our phones, tablets and computers — but full productivity by voice and other biometrics stays tantalizingly just out of reach. It seems that the lowly, primitive keyboard is still very much with us.
Simply put, the keyboard remains indispensable when input must be relentlessly quick, thoroughly accurate, and — perhaps most tellingly — utterly predictable. It has been estimated that in a full workday at a keyboard, we can execute over 50,000 keystrokes. That hurts just to think about. And despite heroic work in the realm of keyboard ergonomics, performing that level of repetitive finger movement comfortably and without injury remains elusive.
During the first years of the new millennium, emergence of musculoskeletal metrics systems that could measure just what areas of the body were stressed by continual keyboard work showed that many painful issues could be alleviated or even prevented by simply supporting the elbows and forearms. By taking the weight of holding our arms out in front of us away from our upper back, neck and shoulders, we could relax the whole kinetic chain that controls the delicate manipulation of the hands required in keyboard proficiency. (One article explaining this research can be read here: https://is.gd/6ShRN7.) There was even evidence from these studies that the single most pervasive, expensive and debilitating computer-generated injury to date — the dreaded Carpal Tunnel Syndrome — was vastly alleviated by proper support uprange of the wrists themselves.
But how can we go about developing a reliable, repeatable mechanism to support the entire forearm — elbow on down — that also doesn’t look like some kind of traction device from a mid-century orthopaedic ward? A quick web search on “forearm desk support” will present you with many examples that are truly medieval- looking. Walking up to a desk equipped with one of those contraptions would not encourage a productive attitude.
A company in Sydney, Australia — Ergoport Pty Ltd — has come up with a solution that neatly resolves the problem and looks rather elegant and high-tech doing it. They call their device the Ergoport PosturePod EP1CH.
The PosturePod looks a bit like the wing from a stealth aircraft: soft-melted leading edges blending into a flat area for holding keyboard and mouse, flowing and thinning on to the armrests themselves, which, when one is in the work position, are in the exact place to support the elbows directly under the shoulders. Unlike chair arms and the like that are seldom in the same place twice, the fixed arm positioning of the PosturePod allows predictable, repeatable, relaxed support from the user’s head and shoulders straight down the upper arms, through the resting elbows, on to the wrists and hands. The resulting position enables the hands to float unencumbered in the work area. It’s a bit hard to imagine without putting yourself at a PosturePod, but suffice it to say, you instinctively and instantly assume a relaxed position that resembles the position you take in an easy chair with perfect arm support.
One further benefit I discovered in my time working with the PosturePod is that the unit’s slightly deepening profile as it moves away from the elbow area puts the keyboard a touch elevated and more in line-of-sight than is allowed by just desktop or keyboard tray. Even expert touch typists can benefit from having a bit of an eye-hand coordination boost every once in a while.
The PosturePod itself is constructed of a sturdy polymer compound that is surfaced in a fine-grained crackle finish that provides enough traction to prevent your input gear migrating during use and that also dissipates lighting glare in the work zone. All areas of contact, elbows and wrists, have generous fabric-covered gel padding that provides a comfortable place for the elbow and forearm to rest comfortably at length. The sloping and padded wrist rest rising out of the top at the keyboard position provides an otherwise non-intrusive rest zone for your hands when taking a pause in the typing. The whole of the PosturePod seems to become an natural part of the modern desk, unobtrusively flowing out of the desktop and into the proper position of support.
One curious element I discovered during my use of the PosturePod is the elongated hole in the upper area of the unit. According to Ergoport, its purpose, outside of weight-saving and providing a convenient carry handle, is to allow the mounting of sophisticated copy stands such as Ergoport’s Microdesk. A one-piece traditional keyboard straddles this opening easily, and the space even serves as a handy cord hideout. But if you use a split keyboard, it can be difficult to position the keyboard to keep it out of the opening. I found that a thin piece of finish board laid on top neatly solves the problem.
But Ergoport offers a more sophisticated solution for the split keyboard user: the PosturePod EP2CH, which has a hinge that allows the unit to pivot open horizontally from the upper edge, enabling proper location of a two-piece keyboard design. And the pivoting also allows more exact control over elbow position in relation to the upper body.
If you are among the countless people who leave their desks in a considerable level of discomfort at the end of each day, you might well consider one of the two PosturePod designs. They provide a tidy, immediate and thorough solution to upper body and arm/hand discomfort during intense keyboard work. You can see the Ergoport PosturePod EP1CH at https://is.gd/F3g2HI, and the splitdesign PosturePod EP2CH at https://is.gd/0jVhW9.
by Dinnis Keefe