An intelligent sitting pad brought a master’s thesis award

Submitted on Tue, 11/21/2017 - 12:19
Marcus Grunewald
An intelligent sitting pad placed on a desk chair performs an important task. Marcus Grunewald designed and developed a device that reminds employees of the need to take breaks.

Marcus Grunewald was awarded for his master’s thesis on human-technology interaction

Marcus Grunewald, a graduate from the Master’s Degree Programme on Human-Technology Interaction at the University of Tampere, received a national award for his study where he developed an intelligent seat cushion to remind employees about the need for breaks.

The award was granted by SIGHI, the Finland Association for Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction. SIGHI organises an annual thesis competition to find the best HCI-related master’s thesis completed at a Finnish higher education institution.

“I encourage others
to take up this idea”

Marcus Grunewald, who is currently living in Germany, replied by email that working on the award-winning innovation took several iterations. He experimented with several versions before coming up with a working solution.

Grunewald started working on the thesis in January 2016 and completed it in November. In-between, he had a summer job in a different field.

“I encourage others to take up this idea and to develop it further; I would be happy to provide tips. This project has shown that this type of development does not require major investments. The equipment is cheap and easy to get. You just need a bit of creativity to find the correct materials,” Grunewald says.

He no longer uses the sitting pad himself because designing it made him aware of his own sedentary behaviour. He now stands for longer periods because he has a stand-up desk. Grunewald’s career has taken him to new tasks and he no longer works on the sitting pad.

“An exceptionally
compelling work”

Among the nine theses completed in 2016-2017 and submitted to the competition, a panel consisting of two members from universities and five members from businesses chose the winner.

According to the panel, Grunewald’s thesis is a prime example of a good “design science” study, which describes well-grounded design solutions and the preliminary testing of a device. The thesis was also fluently written, easy to read and exceptionally compelling, highlighting the student’s mature research skills.

Grunewald's goal was to develop a device that issues alerts to diminish the time spent sitting. The starting point was a previously developed cushion that could be placed on the seat for measuring sitting time.

The thesis describes the work process where a student designed, constructed and tested an intelligent sitting pad that produces acoustic signals to remind employees to get moving. The work was based on a comprehensive literature review.

The topic of the thesis is interesting and well suited to emerging technologies for well-being, which are currently a popular research topic in human-technology interaction. The panel found that Grunewald’s work turned out so well that the idea should be further developed.

Professor Emeritus Kari-Jouko Räihä supervised Grunewald’s thesis.

Marcus Grunewald: Effect of auditory notification on sedentary behavior in office workers