Posted by Ray
| 29 Aug 2014
Left: Courtesy of Gary Cruce; Right: Drawing for patent D249,987
So it looks like the honor of Design Crossover Hit of the Week goes to Noonee's Chairless Chair, and while the mainstream media took to hailing it as a futuristic exoskeletal paramedical breakthrough, it so happens that the basic idea dates back to the late 70's. Upon seeing my post about it earlier this week, eagle-eyed reader Gary Cruce sent a note with a photo from an old exhibition catalog, indicating that the product may well have been invented several decades ago. "I doubt Noonee was aware of this earlier concept, but they may want to know of it as they work to take the product to market," Cruce writes. "The exhibit was at the Kohler Arts Center (yes the toilet company) in 1978, based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. That show featured many studio furniture pieces including selections from Sam Maloof and Wendell Castle." Along with the image and anecdote, Cruce provided an all-important snapshot of the caption from the catalog; crediting the "Wearable Chair (1977)" to Darcy Robert Bonner Jr., it reads:
The "Wearable Chair" consists of two identical "chairs," one strapped to each of the wearer's legs. Bonner states that "It is important for the 'Wearable Chair' to be adjusted to each user. Just like a piece of clothing, if the chair doesn't fit, it will not feel good. When adjusted correctly, you can comfortably relax with all your weight on the chair.
"With the lower member of the chair strapped to the calf, a spring presses the upper member against the back of the thigh. As the user squats, the released compression bar pushes the leg of the chair to a locked position, thereby supporting the body. When the user rises, the lower member is unlocked and is retracted by a spring to its original position, where it will not interfere with the user's movements."
Curious to learn more, a de rigueur Google query revealed that Darcy Robert Bonner had actually filed a patent for his invention, which inspired this "more-than-you-cared-to-know" history of the wearable chair—a bit of rechairche du patents perdu, if you will—gleaned mostly via the USPTO (though tangential sleuthing reveals that one Darcy R. Bonner now heads up an eponymous architectural practice in Chicago).
Left: Uncredited composite image of Darcy Bonner's "Wearable Chair"; Right: Detail of drawing for patent D249,987
The original patent is simply entitled "Wearable Chair," which also happens to describe Noonee's product. Filed in 1977 and granted as D249,987 in October 1978, Bonner's initial design patent is described in Twitter-friendly terms as "the ornamental design for a wearable chair, as shown and described." Although this first iteration briefly resurfaced in the post-Google era in 2008, when the images above made blog rounds, it turns out that Bonner subsequently filed a second patent, US4138156 A, granted in Feburary 1979, which is far more detailed in tenor and scope. Where the former is classified as a "footed," "collapsible or folding" article of furniture, the latter is subject to an entirely different taxonomy of patent-worthiness. US4138156 A is a "device for supporting the weight of a person in a seated position including chairs, seats, and ancillary devices not elsewhere classifiable," specifically a "portable bottom with occupant attacher" (Subclass 4) with "occupant-arising assist" (Digest 10). (In the interest of due diligence, there are 148 patents in the former subclass and 353 in the latter; Noonee's Chairless Chair does not appear to be among them. Fun fact: "Digests" [denoted by DIG followed by a number] are considered secondary subclasses, which are used for indexing purposes only, i.e. as meta tags.)
Posted by Ray
| 28 Aug 2014
"I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real."
–LCD Soundsystem, 'Losing My Edge'
Well this is weird and fun: The data wizards at IBM have partnered with the U.S. Open and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem / DFA Records fame to create real-time musical interpretations of tennis matches throughout the tournament. The premise of the U.S. Open Sessions is simple: IBM processes millions of data points via cloud-based algorithms to generate synth tones that represent the gameplay, complemented by Platonic shapes in the browser window. Developer Patrick Gunderson of digital production companyTool does the heavy lifting while Murphy transposes the progress of the match from groundstrokes to keystrokes; from playing the baseline to, um, playing the bassline.
Posted by Ray
| 27 Aug 2014
Editor's Note: A commenter referred me to Darcy Bonner's wearable chair, which inspired a brief history of this typology via the USPTO.
As anyone who has worked a job that requires long bouts of standing in one place knows, remaining upright for an extended amount of time takes a heavy toll on your legs and back, yet the best solution that we've come up with is the uninspired standing mat... until now. Some are calling it an invisible chair, while others are going with bionic pants—a matter of semantics, perhaps, but considering that the chair is a canonical example of industrial design, it's worth examining where exactly Noonee's "Chairless Chair" fits in the grand scheme of things.
"Based on robotic principles of Bio-Inspired Legged Locomotion and Actuation," the exoskeletal assistive device consists of a pair of mechatronic struts that run the length of the user's leg, with attachment points across the thighs and at the heels of the user's shoes. Hinged at the knee to allow for normal movement—viz. walking and running—its core innovation is the battery-powered variable damper system that can be engaged to direct body weight from the legs to the heels of one's feet.
Of course, the Chairless Chair is intended not for us deskbound office peons but for environments in which workers must stand in one place for long periods, if not entire 8-hour shifts. As the story goes, 29-year-old Keith Gunura was inspired by his experience working in a packaging factory in the U.K.; now, a decade later, he is the CEO and founder of Zurich-based Noonee. CNN, which duly notes the precedent of the one-legged Swiss milking stool, sums up these workplace health concerns (as does the Noonee website):
Physical strain, repetitive movements and poor posture can lead to conditions called Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which are now one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. In 2011, MSDs accounted for 33 percent of all worker injuries and illnesses in the U.S. with over 378,000 cases, according to data from the United States Department of Labor. In Europe, over 40 million workers are affected by MSDs attributable to their job, according to a study entitled Fit For Work Europe and conducted across 23 European countries.
Gunura demo'ing the Chairless Chair
Posted by Ray
| 21 Aug 2014
When it comes bicycles, we're often inclined to say nay. Call us snobs/cranks/grouches or what have you, but we are generally of the opinion that you don't go reinventing the proverbial human-powered two-wheel conveyance. Here's a new one that (if nothing else) offers a new approach to an integrated locking mechanism.
Starting with the notion that any lock can be broken, Juan José Monsalve, Andrés Roi and Cristóbal Cabello have designed the "Yerka," a bicycle frame that features an integrated lock—i.e. the bike cannot be ridden if the lock is severed. Where many of the past Oregon Manifest entries (for which a lock is required per the brief) explored concepts that were integrated into the main triangle of the frame—Tony Pereira's version was deemed worthy of first place in 2009 and 2011—the Chilean engineering students have opted to build the shackle into a main tube. I don't condone locking to trees, but kudos to the team for developing a working prototype:
Posted by Ray
| 19 Aug 2014
Nike has recently launched its "Genealogy of Innovation" campaign, and the promo video by Golden Wolf is an impressive piece of footwear-centric eye candy, featuring some 200 shoes in all, including signature styles by the Hatfield brothers, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Mark Parker et al. Check it out: