Introduction: Anti-Gravity Workstation (with Standing Option)

Picture of Anti-Gravity Workstation (with Standing Option)

The human body was not designed to spend 8 hours a day sitting with our hands on a mouse and keyboard. More than half of office workers will be affected by some form of back pain due to the imposed posture of traditional office furniture. We have seen a massive shift towards standing desks, which help alleviate some people's chronic pain. I have developed a nagging pain in my upper back that worsens when working long hours. I have tried a standing desk, but I get a separate pain in my lower back from this position. A position where my head and shoulders are partially supported seems ideal for me and so I looked at some "lounging desk" options. Ergoquest and Altwork are some of the commercialized options available; these will set you back $5,000 to $10,000 USD which is beyond my budget. Actually I think I can do better in terms of portability, usability and cost.

So the quest was to create a lounging workstation that could also be used as a standing desk for a fraction of the price. All of the designs that I had seen required a massive support system and motors or actuators to keep the the computer screens suspended in front of the worker. I figured that if we could lighten the load from the screen then I could significantly simplify the design. The solution I found is only really recently practical due to new video projectors that have are sufficiently light and high resolution. I simply mounted this projector onto the back of a outdoor lounge chair constructed light screen up front and: BINGO we have a fully reclining workstation. I even figured out how to use a standing option using this configuration. The beauty of this design is that the head, projector and screen are in a fixed geometry, so that any adjustment is instant.

Unlike many of my projects that end up in my reject pile, I use this almost every day for many hours (I am using it NOW) and fully expect to continue using it or an upgraded version. I already have ideas for V2 (see the last step).

* I am not an ergonomics expert and cannot certify that this system will be safe to use for all people.

Step 1: Required Items

Picture of Required Items

For this project you will need the following items:

  1. Outdoor lounging chair. 50$ on Amazon
  2. Small data projector. Minimum resolution (400$) or 1080P (800$). The choice and cost will change quickly, so do some research to find something that fits your needs and budget.
  3. 24 inches of 1/2 inch flat steel bar
  4. 24 inches of 1/4 inch angle steel
  5. 10cm of 1/8 inch steel bar
  6. 2 x 4 feet long peices of bamboo, or pvc, or carbon fiber tubing (light and stiff)
  7. Cheap camera tripod 10$
  8. Foam board (can also be found at Dollar Store)
  9. 36 x 12 inch pine shelving board 20$
  10. Computer, wireless mouse and keyboard. I got the ergonomic keyboard and mouse from Microsoft. The keyboard takes some getting used to but it allows your hands to be further apart which works well with this setup.
  11. Spray paint

You will also need some tools for this project.

  1. Angle grinder with zip-cut, sanding and grinding attachments
  2. Welding kit
  3. Drill and various bits
  4. Sandpaper

Step 2: Projector Mount

Picture of Projector Mount

To mount the projector to the chair, I used a bent piece of flat steel. I bent it backwards to gain a few inches of throw distance, with about 8 inches horizontal length. I designed the mount with about 8 inches of height above the top of the chair to make sure my noggin did not block the projection. I cut a hole in the fabric at the top of the chair to expose the frame, it is best to check the location with your projector because the mounting hole/lens will likely be offset from center. I then used a wet towel to protect the fabric while welding the steel in place.

I sawed off the base of the tripod and attached it through the flat steel with a screw (see photos).

Step 3: Screen Supports

Picture of Screen Supports

I wanted to have the bamboo poles seated onto two angled steel bars, cantilevered in such a way that the screen can swing up and out of the way for entry and exit. This is accomplished by carefully positioning the pin with respect to the notch in the angle bar. To attach the supports, I drilled a hole in both the support and the chair to insert the pin and welded the assembly together. I spent significant time trying to figure out the optimal position and angle (dip and azimuth) for these. The dip angle (verticality) was not that critical in the end because you can play around with the attachment of the screen at a later step. However, the angle in the horizontal direction, or how far apart the supports are splayed play a key given the throw of the projector and distance to the screen. Be sure to take some time to get this right given your projector and mount setup (it helps to have a some extra hands here). They are set up about 2-5 degrees outward.

Step 4: Bamboo Poles

Picture of Bamboo Poles

I considered many different materials before settling on bamboo to support the screen. The combination of price, stiffness and lightness make bamboo great building material, and well suited to this project. I drilled a hole about 3 inches from the end of each pole and inserted them in the supports. I did not cut the length of the bamboo till I tested the optimal screen distance. I then drilled two holes perpendicular to the first two that are perpendicular to the first two and very near the end. These are for the dowels that will support the keyboard tray in the standing work position. To locate the holes on the base of the tray, I colored the top of the dowels with a pencil then carefully placed the tray to leave a faint trace where I need to drill corresponding dowel holes.

Step 5: Screen

Picture of Screen

I simply cut the foam board to size then cut holes near where the poles hit the board. I didn't overly trim the vertical extent of the board, to give more flexibility to the position of the projection. I had initially inserted a bamboo skewer to keep the board at an angle, but I ended up just using some document clips to hold the screen in place for now. This allowed some more experimentation with distance and angle of the screen. My current setup still seems pretty temporary. I am mulling a second version, but in the meantime this is fully functional.

Step 6: Keyboard Tray

Picture of Keyboard Tray

I considered different materials for this component, and may go higher tech for the next version (foam board covered in carbon fiber) but I ended up using pine shelving. I decided to trim the corners to reduce the overall weight which is substantial. I also made some indentations for my forearms. Two holes on the bottom fit into the dowels on on the bamboo poles and a third hole fits a steel rod that holds it in place while working in the standing position.

Step 7: Finishing Touches, Future Versions and FAQ

Picture of Finishing Touches, Future Versions and FAQ

I covered and taped off the chair before painting the new metal parts and ugly welds with spray paint. I am quite proud of the final product even if it still looks like a proof of concept. I mostly work from home (awesome). On those other days that I am at a traditional desk in the office, I miss my anti-gravity workstation. There is nothing like reviewing a report while lying comfortably back; almost like you were at the beach! I have been considering another version that could be easily adapted to any lounging chair (no welding required for installation). Another future adaptation would be to use a single arm (carbon fiber or steel tubing); although this might make the screen a little more unstable. Bouncing screens is not actually a problem because the projector is stable and your eye is not that distracted. The main benefit of a single arm is easier entry and exit.

FAQ

Q: How do you use it in a typical day?

A: I rarely use the standing capability. It is easy enough to transition to standing, but it gives me pain in the lower back so I don't. It is difficult to type while laying down given how the keyboard is flat, I can type pretty accurately, but I still have to look down for special characters. This means that any significant typing is done close to the "upright" position, which is still more laid back than any office chair I have been in. My big head is always leaning on the chair. I can mouse in the laid back position no problem. The advantage of this design, is that you can switch between positions instantly without any additional adjustments. If you don't see how this is important watch this video: changing positions takes time. If I want to bang out an email, I just sit up, send, then lean right back. The screen follows me.

Q: Would you actually use this in an office environment?

A: Admittedly, you would have to spend 10 minutes explaining to everyone that walks by your cubicle. But for some people, this could mean the difference between working comfortably or not at all. So I guess it depends on the circumstances.

Q: Doesn't it get loud and hot right near your head?

A: This is a very relevant question, and points of concern as I was building. Actually this newest generation of small projectors give off way less heat (bulb is good for 30,000 hours). I don't need brightness (in my face!) so I set it to low brightness and quiet mode. Therefore with some background music, it is no more distracting than your laptop fan.

Comments

AndrewA167 (author)2017-12-07

I like what you did here; it's something I've considered doing myself, but never got around to (plus, there's things I do that I have to have a real desk for, unfortunately).

You might be interested in something similar that was done a while back as part of NASA's "spinoff" program:

https://spinoff.nasa.gov/spinoff1998/ch5.htm

1998! It was called the "Flogiston Flostation" - it was designed as a virtual reality platform. The chair was custom designed as an "anti-gravity" chair (there wasn't anything like it on the market back then) - using ergonomic data measurements of the human pose when relaxed in micro-gravity (like in space). Computer imagery was projected on the outside of a "dome" that went over your head. IIRC, the image from the projector was "spherically warped" by a lens (or maybe pre-computed - similar to the barrel warping done for current VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, or old ones like the LEEP system), so that it would flatten out by the curvature of the projection dome. Stereo speakers and base shakers allowed for further immersion.

When it was first being developed, it was really rough; somewhere I have a copy of his old development website before Mr. Park got funding - images of the system with his projector balanced on a ladder in his living room. He had this idea that there'd be special "arcades" where you'd go and pay to use these systems, and the chairs would even be mounted on motion bases to further immerse participants.

The basic system was demo'ed at (IIRC) CES - I think at a booth for Intel or something like that. He also supposedly sold custom built versions with all high-end equipment for the time (computer, audio, projector, etc), and outfitted the chair in leather.

People who used the system reported that after a while, you felt disconnected from your body - a "free floating head" vantage point. Relaxation and meditation were other themes being touted as uses for the chair.

Sadly, it was right at the tail end of the first VR wave, which was already in it's death throes, as the tech just wasn't ready for it, and people were increasingly being drawn to the internet and the web.

Renard_Bleu (author)AndrewA1672017-12-10

You are right, this is right down my alley. I am somewhat a VR pioneer of sort as well. I haven't worn a headset that I would be happy to keep on for more than 30 minutes at a time, which is a huge limiter on the application of the tech. The dome solution might be a more comfortable solution. I also reminds me of the relaxation pods we see in some offices (10k$ and collecting dust...).

AndrewA167 (author)Renard_Bleu2017-12-10

The big problem (well, expensive $$$ problem) is getting such a dome made for back-projection; it would likely need to be made from acrylic or polycarbonate, and both are going to be expensive out the gate (if you've ever priced clear plastic domes, you'll know what I mean).

Then add on top of that whatever is needed to make it work for rear projection, to have such a "one-off" made would probably blow any normal budget.

I don't think you could homebrew it either - you'd need to make a custom and large vacu-form system, then figure out how to do the back-projection process; I doubt that it's as simple as "frosting" the surface (say with using a sand or bead blaster or similar) - but maybe it is?

If you can figure out how to make such plastic capable of back projection, then a decent compromise might entail doing something like you are currently doing, but make it wider - some crazy aspect ratio (32:10 or something like that), then "bend" the projection surface into a curve - almost like a personal Cinerama screen.

For that matter, you might be able to get away with your current system doing this; if you went with a higher-res projector (4k) and software-based warping using custom shaders (again, like is done for HMDs - not for individual eyes, but singular) - it would probably (maybe?) work. Something to play with, I guess.

Renard_Bleu (author)AndrewA1672017-12-13

i learned about spherical projection systems with my attempt at a heliostat. I am expect it will be easier to execute by samsung or sony with there bendy screen tech that is forthcoming

jibpsy (author)2017-12-07

Cool! I've often thought about how a setup like that would be great. Love what you did!

Renard_Bleu (author)jibpsy2017-12-10

Thanks, I am glad to share!

fizil (author)2017-12-07

Maybe using the hack of half bowl/cups to project laptop sound could be applied to direct the fan noise away.

I really like this project. I might incorperate this for my gaming rig :D

Renard_Bleu (author)fizil2017-12-10

Sure, this could help a bit, but I suspect you are better off choosing the projector wisely (more options are coming shortly). Thanks for the comment.

HGC (author)2017-12-07

which projector did you use, do you have any problem reading fine print from the computer or eye strain with it and what is the bulb life?

Renard_Bleu (author)HGC2017-12-07

Qumi Q8, which is 1080p (same as most laptops these days). Eye strain is a concern, I actually decided to upgrade projectors for this reason. Most projectors are not meant to throw such a short distance. The focus on mine is actually uneven for the first hour (edges a little fuzzy), but once warmed up it resolves itself. I tried a laser projector by sony that has no need for focus, but this was not ideal (next gen maybe). The bulb will last 30,000 hours, so 18 years at 8 hours a day on workdays. Basically forever.

HGC (author)Renard_Bleu2017-12-07

Yeah I’ve had the same problem with text on 1080p televisions, laptops put out 1080p, but the screen resolution is higher and optimized for text. I know you could get a different lens for the projector for shorter throw, but I don’t think that would solve the resolution problem. I wonder how the expensive 4K projectors do? What was wrong with the laser projector?

Renard_Bleu (author)HGC2017-12-10

The laser projector had a strange resolution MP-CL1A: 1920/720 which made text blurry, and there was a "sparkle" that was rather distracting. The tech will continue to get better, and I suspect lasers will be better going forward (no heat, high res, tiny).

MillennialDIYer (author)2017-12-07

hy oh why did the marketing team get away with calling this an anti-gravity seat. They should have burned on the stake for that. It's an insult to out inteligence.

Haha, you are right, this is a highly misleading and an abuse of clickbaitery. Thanks for the comment.

GTO3x2 (author)2017-12-07

I don't know how the "anti-gravity" interpretation became popular; I "believe" gravity is still in effect.

Renard_Bleu (author)GTO3x22017-12-07

haha. It is all about the marketting. If you google it, this is the chair the comes up...

RobPaige (author)2017-12-07

I wonder how good the screen looks working outside. You could also improve the reflectivity of the screen on which you're projecting by mixing glass beads (like for sand blasting) into glossy white paint and painting the foam board with that.

Renard_Bleu (author)RobPaige2017-12-07

Those are good suggestions. I have given some thought to that, I am satisfied so far with the reflectivity. Maybe V2 will have a piece of used screen stapled on or something. Other people can come around and easily see what I am doing for collaborations and such. You can also lift the screen out of the way and project onto the wall in front too! Thanks for the comment.

deluges (author)2017-12-06

Very nice. Isn't the projector very loud and hot though, being that close to your head? I reckon I'd have gone with a matt screen.

Good work man

Renard_Bleu (author)deluges2017-12-06

This is a very relevant question, and points of concern as I was building. Actually this newest generation of small projectors give off way less heat (bulb is good for 30,000 hours). I don't need brightness (in my face!) so I set it to low brightness and quiet mode. Therefore with some background music, it is no more distracting than your laptop fan. I could definitely upgrade the screen, but it does surprising well. Thanks for the comment, I will add to the FAQ!

Amanvijayjindal (author)2017-12-06

this is cool and comfy.. nicely done dude.

Thanks, I get so much done in that chair!

Swansong (author)2017-12-05

I need to mod my office chair like this, that would be amazing!

Renard_Bleu (author)Swansong2017-12-05

go for it. Thanks for commenting.

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Bio: A lowly geologist who likes to build stuff.
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