Researchers to examine ergonomic risk in interactive software design

Geophysics Feature Many people today experience chronic pain or injuries in their neck, back, and wrists from long hours spent sitting at desks or computers. Although various adjustments have been made to office furniture and equipment, this pain and these injuries are still occurring. Ergonomics researchers have become increasingly focused on whether people’s interactions with their software could be an additional contributor to the likelihood of their injuries and are hoping that software can be designed to minimize the repetitive strain on the body.

The Office of Ergonomics Research Committee (OERC) recently awarded S. Camille Peres, Ph.D. and Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., assistant professors at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, funding for a research project focused on office ergonomic risk assessment and mitigation, specifically that associated with interactive software usage. The OERC is a consortium of companies who work together to advance ergonomic research and include Apple, Chevron, Dell, Exxon Mobil, HP, and Microsoft.

S. Camille Peres, Ph.D.

S. Camille Peres, Ph.D.

The research project, “Software biomechanics: Does the interaction design of software impact ergonomic risk factors,” will include meeting with over 200 geoscientists over the next year to develop a self-report device for software designers. The goal is to better enable software designers to measure risk factors that are present for specific software interaction methods and then develop strategies for reducing those risks.

“Designers aren’t always aware or properly educated on the physical strain their software may put on a user after repetitive use,” said Dr. Peres.

Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D.

Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D.

“We hope to develop a reliable and manageable tool that can be used to minimize the risk of cumulative stress injuries such as carpal tunnel from software usage.”

This study will aim to develop a survey where people can report the physical impact a type of software has on its user and what aspects of the design can be altered to decrease that risk. Ideally, through the development of this survey, designers will be able to minimize the occurrence of repetitive strain injuries in the office environment and provide employers with safer purchasing options for their companies.

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