Gesture From SteelCase – Is It A Device Or A Chair?

Ergonomics have been evident in several products we use daily. We have seen conventional blocky keyboards evolve into more fine and easy to use designs for prolonged durations. Mobile devices have implemented design curves for grippier handsets. Evidently, more often we have moulded ourselves to fit around the tech that is developed often out of discomfort. But gradually as these design niggles have been identified and seriously paid attention to, the pioneers and innovators have come forward with products that have truly built with the end user at focus. Steelcase recently unveiled their latest flagship chair ‘Gesture’ in Mumbai, India. 

Steelcase is one such company that has brought the furniture industry to evolve into something that understands the human body rather having the body to fit and accommodate based on the device, in this case, a chair, Gesture. If you look at it, it is more functional (or rather feature rich) than most smartphones out there, trust me. That lead to the question, ‘Do I call it a Device or a Chair?’ It definitely would be an understatement to call it a chair, so lets stick with its birth-name, Gesture.

gesture 1 steelcase
Steelcase Gesture in action

Research study that gave birth to Gesture

Technology is the single greatest force driving the changes in the way we work, live and behave.

Through their global study conducted by 2000 people across 11 countries. They identified 9 new postures that were born out of the new technologies impact on work. These behaviours were dominant across the daily work process. The conventional chair or any current seating solutions just aren’t fit to address these ergonomic concerns, which, if overlooked, cause a lot of health issues. Switching between devices to jumping among tasks to collaborating with others, all of this leads to various new movements and body positions, all of which through the exhaustive research and design process was implementing in the birth process of Gesture.

Ubiquitous arm support

The arms of Gesture swivel around to accommodate the change in the body posture while switching devices. The change in height, tilt, slide back and forward, open wide and close in to become narrower thus allowing for various body sizes to sit comfortably and always ensure proper arm rest despite of any sort of seating inclination. This so called ‘Limb Interface’ indeed moves like the human arm.

Flexible seat interface

When reclining back, regular chairs enable the adjustable backrest to fall backwards, but this disrupts your viewing angle between you and the screen in front of you. To counter this, there is another uber cool feature which enables a simple volume-control like knob to drive the seat beneath you forwards and backwards. Irrespective of how much you weigh, it just requires a simple three finger spinning of the knob, as if tuning in to your favorite radio channel, but in this case, shifting the seat forward/backward and yet maintaining your line of sight despite of how far back you choose to recline.

Also the shockingly comfortable contoured seat is quite big wide and flexible at the edges allowing you to shift and spread your legs at any sides, left or right, without any hindrance. The seat also ensures weight distribution along with responsive depth control to make it comfortable longer. Adaptive Bolstering or the use of air channels in the foam ensure consistent comfort for users of different sizes.

Intuitive back seat

The backrest reclines at an angle which other chairs would only hold for a few secs before they touch the floor. In theory this level of recline might feel discomforting, but it works flawlessly and adds to the magic when combined with the sliding-seat (for retaining your viewing angle, mentioned above). Also the back seat cuddles against your lower back with its arched lower support.

All of this comes together magnificently to ensure continuous synchronised support for our entire body.

The makers

Steelcase is a US based global leader in the ‘office’ furniture industry and has been revolutionising workspaces for over a 100 years. They serve only businesses, small and large. Their family of brands include – Steelcase, Coalesse, Designtex, Details, Nurture, PolyVision and Turnstone. Each brand serves similar yet unique goal with the underlying core purpose of improving the interaction between people and spaces. For example, Steelcase aims more towards improving more formal workplaces, whereas Turnstone is geared towards creating more vibrant and creative solutions, Coalesse offers unique products that merge the disparate home and office experiences, PolyVision provides highly functional surfaces (from school writing boards to architectural cladding and infrastructure), Nurture aims at providing exceptional solutions for the healthcare industry.

In India, Steelcase recently started its first manufacturing facility spread over 50,000 sq ft at Pune.

Gesture and its inspirational design

The main basis that justifies the need for Gesture is, technology and its impact on our work and our body. Desktop computers to laptops, to smartphones and tablets, each one of these devices form a core part of our lives, and not only do they help us connect, but also serve as an integral part of our work and more often sources of entertainment. In essence, they occupy a large portion of the time we spend daily, doing whatever you can think of. As much as these tech creations strive to make things convenient, they also affect the way we interact with them and produce a negative result. Our posture. After conducting a global study, Steelcase identified the impact of these new technologies and new workplace behaviours that arose out of them. Current chairs just aren’t suited and equipped to address these unaddressed concerns of the tech impact on the human-body-at-work, resulting in pain and long-term injuries. Gesture serves to address these overlooked discomfort zones by not just being a chair, but an intuitive interface that responds to our body.

The 9 positions

  • The Draw – ‘born of tablets’. The falling back in a recline posture for viewing content on your portable devices such as tablets.
  • The Multi-Device – Juggling between a call on your smartphone and simultaneously operating a desktop device.
  • The Text – Smaller size of devices such as smartphones prolonged with longer use of them, makes us bring our arms closer while performing tasks on them.
  • The Cocoon – A Gen Y workers pose. Curling in with the legs placed on the seat while reclining and drawing the device closer to you.
  • The Swipe – Placing a device such as a tablet on the work surface while operating with one hand and using the other hand to support your head.
  • The Smart Lean – Leaning towards one side, with the body weight shifting towards that side being supported by the armrest, while crossing one leg over the other thus shifting the lower body towards the other side.
  • The Trance – Leaning forward to focus on the screen, after prolonged usage. Extended periods of time cause this body posture, causing one arm to act as a support for the upper torso and head, while operating the device with the other hand.
  • The Take It In – Reclining to view content on bigger screens. Opening the legs forward and resting the upper body backwards.
  • The Strunch – Or the stretched out hunch, resulting from extended duration of sitting and working on a device placed on a work surface such as a table.

Aside from tackling the preexisting inflexibility of your regular office chair, the above 9 postures which are the consequences of the technological advances, are all aptly handled by this new device made by Steelcase.