The Chairless Chair is an exoskeleton that attaches to your legs and lets you sit back, as if you’re sitting on a chair — but, in the words of Morpheus, there is no chair. Rather than relying on the tensile strength of solid wood or plastic and the gravity-defying nature of three or more supporting legs, the Chairless Chair uses clever battery-powered mechanics to achieve the same effect. When turned off, the Chairless Chair allows you to walk around normally. Early versions of the Chair are fairly chunky — you’ll certainly look mechatronic – but presumably future versions might be slim enough to hide innocuously beneath your pants. Suffice it to say that there are thousands of situations where working conditions could be improved by the Chairless Chair — and lots of outdoor activities, too.
The Chairless Chair exoskeleton, developed by Swiss startup Noonee, is essentially a clever application of mechanics. The device attaches to your hips and shoes, and straps to both your thighs and calves. When activated, a damper takes the load from your thighs/ass and funnels it into the heels of your shoes. When turned, you can apparently walk around as normal. Exact details of the implementation are lacking, but it sounds like a 6-volt battery is used to vary the resistance of the damper, to offer a variety of sitting positions. The latest prototype, fashioned out of aluminium and carbon fiber, weighs around 2 kilograms and is good for around 24 hours of use.
As you can probably imagine, the Chairless Chair could revolutionize everything from production line work to standing on a crowded train to camping in the great outdoors. While sitting down for prolonged periods of time can shorten your life expectancy, standing for hours on end is very stressful on your musculoskeletal system. The Chairless Chair offers a fantastic compromise, especially in situations where chairs or stools are hard to come by. There are other solutions, of course, such as the incredibly low-tech Swiss Milking Stool — essentially a one-legged stool strapped to your ass — but the Chairless Chair is much more desirable due to the ability to turn it on and off, and the ability to accommodate a range of sitting positions.
“In addition to resting your leg muscles, it also provides optimal posture,” Noonee’s co-founder Bryan Anastisiades tells CNN. “It keeps your back straight and can reduce the occurrence of bad postures for both healthy workers and those recovering from muscle related injuries.” A large percentage of workplace injury and illness is caused by musculoskeletal disorders, which are often as a result of poor posture, standing all day, etc.
Both Audi and BMW will be trialing the Chairless Chair on their production lines later this year. There’s no word on pricing or general availability, but I doubt it’ll be that expensive; it’s actually a fairly simple piece of gear. Noonee is initially targeting production line workers, fruit pickers, surgeons, and other groups of workers who spend hours standing every day – but the CEO, Keith Gunura, also mentions consumer uses, such as riding on a crowded train.
Ultimately, though, I’m still a bit uncertain about how seriously we can take a company who has trademarked the term “Chairolution.”