Andrew Chang personally struggled with the problem, so he and two fellow Stanford grads set out to help others correct bad posture. Their Palo Alto, Calif.-based company Zero2One's new device, the Lumoback, is a lightweight, wireless posture sensor that fits around the user's lower back and vibrates when it detects poor posture. A complementary app for iPhone 4S and the new iPad, complete with an animated avatar named "Lumo," provides a visual representation of the wearer's posture, whether running, sitting or sleeping.
The potential market is huge. Bad posture can be part of the reason why 80 percent of Americans will deal with back problems at some point in their lives. In addition to offering health benefits, good posture can help save money in terms of lost productivity from workers and compensation costs. According to the Center For Disease Control, direct costs of treatment of back pain -- second only to headaches in terms of common neurological ailments -- are upwards of $50 billion per year.
Similar products on the market have already attempted to help people stop slouching. iPosture, a small, circular white device, also uses brief vibrations to alert users to incorrect posture, while PostureTrack, a Mac program, uses a computer's iSight camera to visualize whether the user's current posture is healthful or harmful.
Whether people will be willing to wear the Lumoback band -- which is 8.5mm at its thickest point -- remains to be seen. For some, the idea of being "annoyed" into good posture may be a bit frustrating.
The company is currently fundraising on Kickstarter. As of Thursday, the project had raised a little over $100,000 of its $100,000 fundraising goal with 28 days to go. Backers of at least $99 receive a limited edition Lumoback.