There are now several scanning techniques employed to create 3-Dimensional imaging or Whole Body Surface Anthropometry. However, the TC2 body scanners used by “Size USA” or the white light BVI scanners used at the University of Aston in association with Select Research will eventually result in a bank of real statistical data that will be representative of all types of individuals dependent on body shape– not an inferred statistical assumption. The data is being collected to provide indicators of potential illness or disease and is used extensively by the UK National Obesity Centre at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, but is equally useful in considering furniture design or selection.

These new techniques are measuring the body including the soft tissues – an existing science known as Somatometry – and creating a new set of predictable natural laws for understanding body shape – Somatonomics. International research will continue for some years yet, but for now there are just tantalising glimpses of what the ergonomic seating sales foot-soldiers and ergonomic assessors have known for many years:

  • Individuals do not always have classical (average) body proportions.
  • In general the action of sitting for women is different from men due to physiology.
  • Body Volume displacement is different between gender, ethnicity and occupation.
  • As we reach middle age our body shape changes due to spinal degeneration and Body Volume distribution.

These issues do not change the need for all individuals to require a comfortable back support when sitting, or that movement is always better for the body than long periods of sitting, but it creates a challenge for designers to identify the specific needs of an individual rather than fitting the individual into a chair designed for the average user.

In a world where individuals are working for longer, sitting for longer, and subjecting our bodies and minds to increasing stress it is ever more important to find the right work chair for the individual.

FutureThe science of understanding an individual’s personal body shape and how it can affect the interaction in his or her personal working environment is upon us. It is more than Ergonomics. It is Ergosomatonomics.

It might only be a few years before employers are placing orders for an ergosomatonomic chair to suit an individual subject of pre-determined BVI Body Type F14T-PAC, (or some other such categorisation), that may mean nothing to us today, but will define a person’s gender-specific body shape, life expectancy, insurance category and credit risk.