Posts Tagged ‘ergonomics’

KALQ keyboard layout

Researchers developed a new keyboard layout specifically for touchscreens . QWERTY or QWERTZ layout is the layout for the classic computer keyboard. The letters come from the letters in the first row. There are ongoing discussions if this layout is the best as it originated from the typewriter and designed in a way to keep letters that appear often at most distance. This distance was necessary to avoid failures in the typing mechanism of the typewriter.

The changed arrangement bases on user-evaluations and should contribute to the changed interaction from the classic PC to touchscreens. Thumbs are the main interacting fingers on touchscreens and especially mobile devices. Currently it is not reflected by the QWERTZ / QWERTY layout. So the researchers suggested a new two parted layout. KALQ ist designed in a way that all letters can be typed with and are in short reaching distance to the thumbs.

Is it really so easy to learn like the designers promise? Does the knowledge of the new layout confuse with existing knowledge of the classic keyboard layout? ~  Concerning parallel use of mobile phones and notebooks. ~ Is it an advantage to the swiping technology?

You can find a beta-verison here.


Helicopter accidents – collision warning system?

On first of May I saw a documentation about mountain rescue service with helicopters in Nepal. Its amazing in this heights of the Himalayan mountains. Beside the discussion about pros and contras of this service in general (similar to those there must have been before such a service was introduced in the Alps regions), I was shocked by a helicopter accident. A trainee team of one pilot and one rescue person tried to rescue two people stuck in a rock bank. Due to the thin air only on person could be rescued at once. They managed to rescued the first person and transported into the rescue service base station. Afterwards they flew back to rescue the second person. Shortly in front of the second person the helicopter was in hover flight. Then, for an unknown reason, the rotor blades touched the rock face. With a crackling noise the helicopter vibrated and crashed – no chance to survive. Here you find an article about the accident.

Why did the rotor blades touch the mountain bank? Was there no collision warning system?
In the accident described the pilot chose hovering to rescue the two persons. Hovering is difficult with a helicopter because the aerodynamic center is above the helicopters body and therewith above the balance point. So the pilot needs to carefully counter balance the movements of the helicopter. Imagine the thin air in the mountains and suddenly occurring strong winds which make the task specially difficult.

Some of the helicopters (not all) have an automation system for hovering. One of such helicopters is the russian Mil-Mi-26 . It is not an alternative as it is a heavy military helicopter used mostly for transportation of heavy machinery whereas the used AS350 B3 is a light weight helicopter enabling the crew to fly in heights up to 7000m. I found no hints indicating the limitations of the hover automation other detailed descriptions. Is there always the possibility for manual intervention? Is it indicated what the automatic does? Is the status of the automatic presented? Those are general questions when tasks are automated in the human-machine interface but due to the limited information it is not possible to discuss them further.

I wondered if there exists a similar collision warning system to the one used in cars, see example below. There is a patent for such a system and I found only a little example. This article indicates that the industry slowly adapts to this helpful systems in helicopters. Maybe costs are the reason. In cars it is quiet helpful, used by experienced drivers as well. It sounds helpful for pilots too. An amount helicopter accidents happened during flights in mist or dusk ending in a collision with a crane or other obstacles. The system can enhance the pilots awareness for the environments when sight is limited by environmental conditions but also if he needs to concentrate on hovering the helicopter in a rescue mission.
helicopter anticollision

Tool to avoid the carpal tunnel syndrome

April 21, 2013 1 comment

The carpal tunnel is a tunnel out of connective tissue between the bony forearm and hand. Through it go nerves, such as for movement of the fingers and haptic feedback of the hand. While using the mouse the wrist is strongly bended, causing a contraction of this nerve channel and over longer time nerves get damaged. Following effects are e.g. pain during and after use of the mouse, pain specifically at night (if the body rests) and decreased fine motor skills. Effects must be taken serious as they worsen with time and lead from an inflammation of the nerve in the beginning to permanent nerve damage.

A company brought a new product on the market for help. The product’s name is KAKUM. It looks like a mini sunlounger for the hand and meant to be flexible adjustable according to the supplier. Through its roundness it avoids the bend of the wrist and therewith avoids blockage of the carpal tunnel. Further on according to the supplier the material are of such a type that the device easily moves along the hand-movements when interacting with the mouse. This would also be an advantage of KAKUM compared to mouse-pads with wrist support. Source of the image is Yanko Design , here you also find more information about KAKUM.

KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Yanko Design KAKUM wrist support for mouse use

Other means to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome are e.g. small tools reminding computer users to take breaks, mouse pads with wrist support, a trackball and regular training of the hand.

Breaks are not only to rest your hand but also your eyes. One of those tools is the freeware program Workrave. After a specified timeframe it reminds you to take a break from computer work. The duration of a break is adjustable from mini-breaks to longer breaks like lunch time. It offers the possibility to show exercises during the breaks. Download Workrave here.

Mouse pads with wrist support are bound to a small radius of mouse use (not suitable e.g. for a graphic designer who uses the mouse in wider space). They are not adjustable in height which makes them, speaking from my experience, sometimes uncomfortable.

A trackball is different to use. Similar to a mouse you lay your hands on the ergonomic shaped device. On the right side or directly in the middle you find a ball (more or less looking out of the device).  When the fingertips move the balls the mouse scrolls over the screen. Ensure that sensitiveness of scrolling is adjustable to your needs – not to sensitive scrolling but also not too hard. Some people like to have a scroll wheel at the trackball. It is known from a usual mouse and comfortable while reading a lot of text.

Trackball - example from Logitech

Trackball – example from Logitech

Not everyday products – open doors for wheelchairs

Did you ever wonder how wheelchair users open doors? Or maybe you are a frustrated wheelchair user? Especially at home you can leave out some doors to avoid problems to open them and make the rooms easy accessible but for kitchen, toilet and bathroom you surely want to keep a door. Important for an automatic door opener:

  • easiness installation
  • individual adjustment – of the time until the door opens, the time the door stays open
  • selectable mechanisms to open the door e.g. remote control, motion sensor, switch
  • maintenance – easy to maintain, no blockage of the door if the device fails
  • costs per one device, in case additional costs for the battery

Lately I saw a report on TV that presented a nice solution for an automatic door opener. The device is pasted on the lower edge of the door. A motor powering little wheels moves the door (open/close). Waiting time before the door opens and time the door stays open are adjustable according to the suppliers homepage. In case the device fails the website states that the door can be used in normal way. Even if you are on holiday you could take the device with you. Abotic is the device’s name. Power supply is possible via battery but can also be hard-wired. Does operation via battery a longevity of the battery and is the battery easy to charge? Is the device put in the charger as whole? Does operation via power plug consider careful handling of the cables? One device costs 1499€.

Automatic door opener, image from

Automatic door opener, image from

The principle is different to other solutions, compare:

  • ADA EZ door opener, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs $2199.00, what happens in case of a failure?
  • Private door, installation at the door angle needed, the website makes it a bit complicated to find out if the device is controlled via switch, motion sensor or remote control, the price depends on the selected device type
  • Porteo, battery powered or hard-wired, installation at the door angle needed, costs about 800€

Correct posture when working at a computer

I foung a nice video on youtube showing ergonomic posture while working at a computer to avoid strains of muscles and the eye. See the funny clip:

— German —

Auf Youtube habe ich ein schönes Video entdeckt das richtige Sitzhaltung beim Arbeiten am Computer vorführt. Ab und an könnte man Jemanden wie im Video gebrauchen, der einen in die richtige Haltung zurecht schiebt..