Multitouch Devices: Ergonomic Nightmare?

Mulittouch interfaces are gaining popularity, but little is known about whether the finger flicking done on devices like the iPad or iPhone put undue stress on our bodies.

A team of researchers led by Kanav Kahol of Arizona State University is beginning to study whether long-term use of multitouch devices could lead to musculoskeletal disorders. The team, supported by a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant, includes computer interaction researchers, kinesiologists and ergonomics experts.

"Multitouch systems might be great for usability of a device, but we just don't know what it does to our musculoskeletal system," said Kahol, an assistant professor in the university's Department of Biomedical Informatics, in a statement earlier this month.

Initially, users will be fitted with electromyography equipment to measure muscle forces and with cyber gloves to record their hand movements while they interact with multitouch systems. A second phase of the project will involve the development of biomechanical models that show how much stress is created by certain gestures.

"We would then take this data back to the Microsofts, the Apples and other manufacturers so they could use it when they are designing new devices," Kahol explained in the statement.

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