Image by Proto Astron
From your smartphone to your vehicle even, and to your personal computer to your coffee pot, the exact age of the touchscreen is upon us. However, as we transition from a button- and keyboard-centric world to a world of flat panel, screens that are capacitive, are we hurting ourselves in the procedure? Do our bodies must evolve to stay informed about technology?
Here’s an idea – perhaps everything does not need to have a touchscreen. Though tablet PC and PC manufacturing companies would like to fill your life with interactive touch screens, it is not constantly in the best interest of your body.
Are touchscreens an ergonomic alternative?
For years we have heard stories around the office coffee pot of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and other repetitive stress injuries due to working at a conventional computer for too long. Disregarding the guidance of ergonomics specialists who advocate mouse handles, computer keyboard angles, and particular computer screen spaces results in a pain that’s not a lot better than merely a case of the Mondays.
With the preponderance of touchscreen computers, tablet computers, and the everpresent smartphone, you had believe touching a display to scroll would be better than always stressing your scrolling finger, right?
Not actually. There is a whole other slew of issues that touchscreens present in regular work life that are just beginning to surface. Discussing of Surface, Microsoft may rue the day it made touch virtually essential in Windows 8 – if not for the income of RT, than for the pain in neck and the shoulder its latest OS could cause.
In the year 2012, prior to the launch of Windows 8, InfoWorld wrote about the extra force with which touchscreen users exploit their displays because of the dearth of tactile feedback. It is less than perfect while a clicky sound when urgent letters on a virtual keyboard helps. A virtual key wills strike with eight times the force of a physical key. No wonder producers began using Gorilla Glass
Hitting virtual targets with excessive force is not the only issue, either. Neck strain is a major issue with tablet computers and, by extension, laptops that are hybrid. Hanging the head down or pushing it forth with a hunched back, or “turtling” puts pressure on the cervical portion of the spinal column and leads to muscle fatigue. The exact same problem is very difficult with notebooks.
Cynthia Burt, Injury Prevention Division Supervisor at the UCLA Office of Environment, Health and Safety, considers the built-in nature of notebooks make them less than ergonomically sound due to the comparatively rigid display and keyboard locations. This really is amplified with a touchscreen notebook because, as she describes, there’s a difference between best reach space and best visual difference. “We advocate that individuals have an 18- to 20-inch envelope before them for best reaching,” Burt told us. “But for coping with a computer screen, individuals are advocating arm’s length or more, which will be 28 to 32 inches … The closer the computer screen is, the more your eyes must work to view the display.”
Eye strain is not the only issue with a touchscreen notebook that is placed like a typical notebook. The act of touching the display itself presents a host of possible problems that are physical. “The biggest thing I see with a touchscreen is the fact that to touch it you need to elevate your arm and reach out so you are using much more shoulder and torso muscles along with arm muscles … It’s going to need much more workload in your extremities, also it will likewise affect your sitting equilibrium,” Burt said, describing that how you sit is very significant, plus it is even more significant than when you are using a computer keyboard.”
Hybrid laptops that contort into tablet computers are somewhat better because you’ve got more control over how you are placed. However, it is advised in case you plan on writing the Great American Novel on a tablet PC that you make use of a different Bluetooth keyboard. The truth is, a lot of the physical strain issues associated with notebook use – whether itis hybrid vehicle convertible, touchscreen, or a conventional screen – may be significantly reduced with the usage of an external computer keyboard.
What about gesture management? Is it prepared?
Products enjoy the Leap Motion control and Thalmic Labs’s MYO take the touch as well as the typing out of the equation completely by using gestures. Are they any better than an old fashioned computer keyboard and mouse while the products provide an alternative take on computer interaction?
Leap Motion uses a USB control which can be put virtually everywhere in front of a display as long as one of the wires can connect to your personal computer. Leap Motion states, “The interaction space of 2x2x2 feet is about arm-span distance, which we felt was more of a natural, efficient movement than comprehensive gestures, for use of the Control.”
This works nicely with Burt’s declaration a computer screen ought to be held at arm’s length, however there is still the matter of hanging your arm in a less than perfect location. The support section on the website of Leap Motion carries a page with manners to make use of the control comfortably, including keeping your shoulders relaxed and your arms at a comfortable angle.
While Leap Motion does not make any claims about its merchandise helping individuals who are suffering from a repetitive stress injury or other workplace ailments, the firm says, “the ability to interact with and control a computer, using natural hand and finger motions, may be a favorable choice for individuals who find that the mouse and keyboard are a restricting and unsuccessful encounter.”
Yet, as our overview of the Leap Motion control attests, the control is not quite exact enough to replace a touchscreen or a mouse – yet. As a group, gesture management will improve during the following couple of years and continues to be nascent.
Burt concurs. “It is a very promising technology, but when it comes to it being prepared right now to replace for a mouse, I do not believe we are there yet… But we are only at the start of that technology, so I am confident it is going to improve and get better. I Have observed other folks attempt to make use of it and when I Have attempted to use it, as it is not instinctive now there are quite inconvenient hand and wrist finger movements striving to get it to function.
What Is a touch screen enthusiast to do if they would like to avoid physical tension and potential repetitive stress injuries? There are practical options for the workplace as well as home offices. Whether you are using a notebook or a desktop computer, Burt advocates using a computer screen with an articulating arm kind of mount, which allows the display to transfer nearer or farther away as needed.
Also, an external computer keyboard is useful for both notebook and hybrid setups when you’ve got lots of key thumping to do. But what about your gleaming new touchscreen? Prevent reaching for it. Keep it close enough to touch it while keeping relaxed shoulders and good posture. “Perching forwards and leaning causes lots of overuse issues as it pushes you to be in an uncomfortable position,” Burt said.
One of the potential advantages of utilizing a mix of a touchscreen, keyboard, and touchpad or mouse is the fact that you are going between three distinct input signals and, consequently, are shifting places more often. So long as you are not uncomfortable about it in relation to your position, it is a great thing.
So what is the final remedy? A good ol’ fashioned gesture management apparatus, or computer keyboard and mouse, a touchscreen? As far as Burt is worried: None of the aforementioned. “At the point in time, given what the technology is, I’d encourage individuals to consider voice recognition systems until they go forward with touchscreen systems.”