Monday, May 5, 2014

A new 'ergonomic' baseball bat? 'Axe Bat' Wins Converts, But Has To Overcome Baseball Traditionalists

A family-owned sporting goods company in suburban Seattle is confronting the tension between honoring tradition and embracing innovation in the sport of baseball.

An Axe Bat (top) vs. a traditional baseball bat
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network
The company is going to market with what it calls a "better" baseball bat.
The traditional round-handled baseball bat has been a fixture on sand lots and in stadiums for 150 years. Back when bats were turned out on a lathe, there was good reason for the symmetrical design. But now computer-guided machine tools can churn out any shape you want.
So if you could choose, why not go for a more ergonomic handle? It makes sense to former baseball coach Rusty Trudeau.
Better control and more power
"The concept from our standpoint is the ergonomics of an axe," he explains. "It's been around forever and there's a reason why."
Trudeau is now a national account manager for Baden Sports of Renton, Washington. He holds up his company's patented Axe Bat. The barrel looks the same as always. But remember how a traditional bat has a circular knob at the base of a round handle? This new bat has an oval grip and angled knob.
Trudeau ticks off attributes he claims result from the redesign: better bat control, more power and lower risk of hand injuries compared to the traditional style.
"That round knob protruding into the palm -- or the hamate bone area of your hand -- creates a lot of injuries," he says. "In fact, when we presented to Major League Baseball that was a key factor in our presentation: keeping the money in the game, preventing injury and hand fatigue."
Trudeau and company have embarked on what will probably be a lengthy campaign to convince players of America's pastime to try something new.
Baden is a 35-year-old sporting goods company better known until now as a ball supplier. It licensed the axe-handled bat design from New York woodworker Bruce Leinert, who invented and patented it.
"If we can't bring something new and help people do better at whatever sport they choose, then we don't think it is worth pursuing," says CEO Michael Schindler by way of explaining why he chose this time to branch into bats.
The suburban Seattle company prices its baseball and softball bats between $50-$300, which places them in the middle to upper price tiers.
Schindler describes himself as "very impatient" to see players try out and adopt the new bat style, but concedes, "it is what it is." The privately-held company does not disclose its annual sales.
"The handle of the future"
Trudeau does lots of demos. He's also signed a bunch of college teams to swing the axe-handled bat including the University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran. Baden though has less money to throw around than its bigger competitors. Trudeau hopes to get more high profile endorsers as college players turn pro.
"We really think we're going to overcome. We know we're going to overcome this. This is going to be the handle of the future."

Players at this Timberline vs. North Thurston High School baseball showdown had the option to use an Axe Bat, but stayed traditional.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network
There were several of the new bats in the dugout for a showdown of high school baseball division leaders in Lacey, Washington recently. The Timberline High School team used one in warm-ups, but during the actual game all the players wielded regular bats.
They reverted to what they knew best says Tyler Gartner, an infielder and pitcher who has tried the new style bat.
"I like the pop from it," he says. "The flaw is the handle a little bit because you can't move your hand around as much."
Gartner says he prefers to rotate his grip. But he gives the new geometry a chance to catch on with players who have different preferences.
Timberline High School head coach Matt Acker also figures the axe-handle bat will eventually capture some market share. He says the youngest players are among the most open to equipment change.
"It automatically feels better to a younger kid," says Acker. "If you give it -- and I have, I have handed them -- to younger kids that are seven years old and you just let them pick one, they'll pick that one because it feels the best. It just feels natural to you."
Acker says, "Change in baseball takes time." There's superstition, too. Rusty Trudeau says he appreciates what he is up against.
"Baseball is a very tradition-driven sport. That is a challenge at times."
Other manufacturers are experimenting with other parts of the baseball bat according to Jeff Kensrud, manager of Washington State University's Sports Science Laboratory. "There is always something new coming through," Kensrud says before mentioning "enlarging the sweet spot" on the barrel as another innovation he has seen recently.
The WSU lab contracts with bat and ball makers to verify that new products comply with association and league standards.

About Us

This blog is sponsored by ErgoBack, a company committed to providing ergonomically designed products including chairs and desks for the home/&office. We believe promoting ergonomic health in people's everyday lives is an important part of keeping individuals happy and healthy. Visit our online store at for the best deals on ergonomic chairs, desk, computer stations, and more.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Take a seat on the ergonomically correct toilet of the future

30th of December 2013
Take a seat on the ergonomically correct toilet of the future
A new lavatory said to reduce the risk of colon diseases - while also being able to tell if you are ill or pregnant - has been unveiled by a trio of industrial design graduates.
The Wellbeing Toilet is designed to be used at an angle between sitting and squatting, which is said reduce colon problems.
According to the three design graduates from London's Central St Martin's University, today's toilets are potentially detrimental for health since they force users to perch upright at a 90-degree angle.
"The angle increases the risk of colon diseases and bowel-related illnesses," explains designer Sam Sheard. "Ideally you should squat but there are negative social connotations because we're used to sitting down on a toilet."
The Wellbeing Toilet aims to facilitate a better posture among toilet users by allowing them to use the lavatory at a more ergonomic angle. It also analyses the urine of the user.
"It's what you'd get if you go to the doctor and they check for diabetes, kidney disease or phosphates in the urine," said Sheard. He adds that the toilet can also be used to test for pregnancy.
"The industry connected with pregnancy tests has huge costs both financially and environmentally - with resources, manufacturing, plastic packaging, and distribution - and if you can encompass that within a toilet you can have an impact."
Sheard and the two other design graduates - Pierre Papet and Victor Johansson - won a Dyno-Rod Drains competition to reimagine the toilet. Although the ergonomic toilet is still only a concept, the designers say the technology is completely viable.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5 Surprising Principles For Designing Smartwatches


Five years ago, I coined the phrase “Ergonomics of Interaction Design” to explain how physical ergonomic principles could be applied to the design of user interfaces. At the time, many thought of ergonomics only as it related to 3-dimensional, tangible products where issues of physical fit and comfort were considered critical (think: office chair). But the rapid proliferation of gestural and touch interfaces combined with the widespread use of devices in unconventional contexts--in bed, while driving, while walking--signaled growing design challenges.
Since then, display clarity and touch-screen sensitivity have advanced. Designer awareness and attention to physical interactions have inched upward. But there is still much more to do.

Image: Courtesy of Samsung

Smartwatches are the next wave of the physical/digital convergence. Unfortunately, they seem to come with a set of false preconceptions about how they should and could be designed and used. So here are five counter-intuitive tips to consider in the design of these emerging devices.

Smartwatches Are Not Little Smartphones
A misconception in smartwatch design is believing that these devices are scaled down versions of smartphones, or even “second screens” to a smartphone. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t account for several meaningful differences. Consider the following small, but important, distinctions.

Image: Courtesy of Samsung

Ergonomically, smartphones are carried whereas smartwatches are worn on the body. Emotionally, smartphones are seen as tools whereas smartwatches are primarily considered decorative. And when it comes to user interaction, smartphones are inert when not in use, but watches are always on.
Consequently, both the physical and interaction design of these body-worn devices need to be based on their unique characteristics of use, rather than trying to duplicate their bigger smartphone brothers.

Wearable Doesn’t Mean Just for the Wearer
Wearable digital devices will eventually become commonplace, but their current novelty draws attention to the wearer and the device. This presents a unique opportunity to expand what these watches might do. In fact, the high visibility of smartwatches could allow users to more easily communicate information with others. Consider a smartwatch as you might a digital mood ring--a tool for selectively sharing information (images, content) rather than just handing someone your smartphone. If the watch becomes a portal of information for others, not just the user, it would allow a smartwatch user to more readily share information without going into the often awkward postures associated with using smartphones.
On Your Body Doesn’t Equal Ergonomic

Image: Courtesy of Samsung

Speaking of postures, keep in mind that while wearing a device eliminates the need to carry it, that doesn’t automatically make it accessible or easy to interact with. Utilizing a wrist worn touch screen requires rotating one arm inward and reaching across the body with the other arm--not a difficult gesture, but one that’s uncomfortable to do repetitively. Designers need to keep this in mind and limit interactions accordingly.

Small Displays Are Like Big Displays
Surprisingly, the small displays on wearable devices have more in common with large screen displays like TVs than they do tablets and smartphones. Very large and very small displays share a common interaction model: both are based primarily on information consumption rather than information generation and therefore rely on limited data entry. In fact, such similarities make smartwatches an excellent tool for interacting with big displays, such as remotely controlling your TV.
Visual and Tactile Are Equal
On smartphones, visual is primary and tactile is secondary. We use vibrate mode to reduce distraction and disruption, and rely on the rich visual displays typically only when we are directly interacting. Conversely, a smartwatch may be continually displaying visual information (it’s a watch after all) without any user interaction. But as wearable devices are in direct contact with the skin, tactile feedback can be even more salient and communicative than visual. As a result tactile feedback is just as important, and in some cases, more important than visual display.
Sometimes we need to redefine our frame of reference when it comes to emerging design. In the case of smartwatches, trying to force fit the product into a predefined space--a smartphone that you wear like a watch--will lead to narrow thinking at best and failed products at worst.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Invention loves collaboration in Milan: "more ergonomic seating"

The sprawling show, which closed April 13, is the largest in the world, capitalizing on Italian excellence in furniture design and craftsmanship. The weeklong happening, which spills out into Milan venues with numerous side events, is also increasingly the launching pad for high-level collaborations among the fashion, architecture, technological and design worlds.

‘‘The market is big and growing for those who have a strong brand,” said the presiding chairman of the international furniture show, Kartell CEO Claudio Luti, noting that visitors from 160 countries were on hand to see new products from some 2,400 furniture makers at the Rho convention center near Milan. ‘‘It is a great opportunity and a great recognition of the quality of innovation.”

Get a charge out of your furniture

At the end of a long day, both user and mobile phone are out of juice. In the dream house of the near future, there’s no more fumbling for phone chargers. Just plunk down your device on a surface with a built-in wireless charging station.

Powermat wireless recharging technology is being incorporated into Corian surfaces, the DuPont creation that can be molded into virtually any shape and purpose, making it ideal for kitchen countertops, bathroom surfaces and tabletops — any of which now can become a charging station. The energy transfer is through magnetic induction, not electricity, meaning ‘‘there is no chance of sparkage,” said Scott Eisenstein, a Powermat vice president.

DuPont envisions the broadest initial application in public spaces, say, restaurants, airports or train stations where mobile device charging can be monetized. But DuPont also sees a market niche for the technology as a luxury feature in private homes.

Until the wireless technology becomes standard in mobile phones, Powermat has bridge technologies in the form of charging phone cases or a charging ring that plugs into the device. Each need to be placed on a specified spot on the surface, where the energy transfer can be made.

Fashion meets design

The Pucci fashion house has teamed up with the Bisazza glass-mosaic makers to create splashy wall mosaics featuring archival Pucci patterns. The collaboration was born out of friendship between Laudomia Pucci and Rossella Bisazza, women who have taken over the historic Italian brands founded by their fathers.

‘The idea is to transfer the print from garments to interiors,” Bisazza said in the brand’s Milan store. ‘‘It is a way to decorate the house.”

Three of the creations are envisioned as wall hangings, pieces of art in limited editions of 99. Each bold, geometric mosaic is made from hand-cut stones and takes six mosaic makers 200 hours to assemble. The collection also includes three more-industrialized products that can be installed directly on interior walls.

Sculpted furniture by Cardin

Pierre Cardin, a pioneer in ready-to-wear fashion, also was one of the first fashion designers to branch out into furniture. Now his nephew, Rodrigo Basilicati, is spearheading a new collection of Cardin’s so-called ‘‘Utilitarian Sculptures.”

A high-back curved S-shaped chair with ever the slightest spring is part of the collection. It is made out of flexible birch, plied into curves and covered with lacquered paint. Each piece takes two to four months to produce in Cardin’s native Veneto (the designer moved to France at age 2) and will be made by order in limited quantities of as few as eight.

Cardin, now 91, was on hand for the unveiling of the creations at the Milan fairgrounds, wearing a double-breasted suit jacket accented with a green kerchief. He promptly went about reorganizing the stand, banishing refreshments, overseeing the transfer to the corner of a heavy sculpted floor lamp in the shape of a giant plant and repositioning a light to better accentuate a bureau.

‘‘If I do something, I do it well, or I don’t do it,” the designer said.

Table wear befitting the most finicky chef

Kartell has returned to table wear, a line it abandoned in the 1970s, this time tapping the imaginations of three designers and three chefs for their ideal table settings.

Italian chef and restaurateur Davide Oldani wants his servers to know exactly how to place a plate before diners so he put a raised thumb print on his dishes for proper orientation. Andrea Berton and Carlo Cracco stuck to accessories, from serving plates for Cracco to sculpted bread dishes by Berton.

Philippe Starke created a series of whimsical domes dubbed ‘‘Ding Dong” for anything from cakes to hard boiled eggs; Jean-Marie Massaud made asymmetrical plates suggestive of flat stones; and Patricia Urquiola designed a series of transparent molded plastic dishes, bowls and drinking cups.


While technology remains a driving force in home furnishing innovations, there were also many simple, low-tech solutions on offer.

A Dutch design team created pop-up furniture for temporary restaurants or festivals — a cushioned and heated bench for two with a built-in table that folds into a box for easy transport. The pieces, made for side-by-side dining or working, were dubbed Soullmate.

Itinerant Italians often lament the quality of espresso abroad. Bialetti, maker of stove-top espresso machines, has one solution: a stainless steel bottom on its traditional stove-top espresso maker that better conducts heat from electric or ceramic-top heating elements common abroad, while retaining the aluminum reservoir, which best preserves the espresso flavor. Bialetti’s traditional espresso makers have been all-aluminum.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Big Gripper: How Home Depot Copied Apple to Build an Ingenious New Ergonomically Designed Bucket

Home Depot Reinvents The Bucket
Home Depot’s new Big Gripper all-purpose bucket is a handy improvement on the old school, five-gallon contractor pail. An ergonomic handle and patent pending “pocket grip” on the underside sets the product apart on the shelf, but more importantly, the design is a showpiece for a new approach to big box merchandising. Brick-and-mortar retailers have learned a lesson from Apple and are following their vertically integrated approach by developing high-quality, and exclusive, products to remain competitive in the age of Amazon. And they’re learning from another Apple trademark: revisiting product categories filled with bad offerings, and completely rethinking them.

The clever container was developed in textbook fashion by Herbst Produkt, an award-winning firm with a client list that includes Clorox and Facebook. Like a good user-centered designer, founder Scot Herbst started the project by observing customers in their natural habitats and recording their difficulties using similar products. “We found this particularly true in the female demographic — someone would load a garden bucket with soil and have a hell of a time lifting and maneuvering the ungainly mass,” says Herbst.

With this insight in hand, Herbst rearranged the elements of the bucket to create an asymmetrical, yet better balanced product. “The best part about these little innovations is they didn’t add any cost to the product,” he says. “They’re cost-neutral features that are achieved without adding material or complex tooling.” You can’t argue with free, but the importance of this design rests less in its features and more why it was developed in the first place.
Products like the bucket sell by the millions, but haven’t been improved in decades.
It might be hard to believe, but when the Home Depot was founded in 1978, it was hugely innovative. Floor to ceiling stacks of oriented strand board might lack the panache of 3-D printing, yet both developments had similar effects. Prior to the arrival of these walk-in warehouses, weekend warriors were left with whatever limited selection their local hardware store carried. For two decades, Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus made it his mission to make exotic tools and hard-to-find building materials available to anyone with a pick-up truck.
In 2000, Marcus retired and brought on Bob Nardelli as CEO. Nardelli had been one of Jack Welch’s hatchet men at GE, and he spent the next seven years driving down costs—at the expense of Home Depot’s reputation for innovation. “From what I understand, it had a brutal cost-cutting culture that stymied product innovation,” says Herbst.
At the same time, Amazon and other online tool sellers were beating physical retailers at the price game. Shipping bags of concrete was cost prohibitive, but online sales of hyper-profitable, high-ticket power tools boomed. “If the game is played solely on a price-cutting platform, you will inevitably run out of margin to support new innovation,” says Herbst. “What the consumer doesn't appreciate is that innovation costs money—R&D, prototyping, design, engineering, IP—all of these activities require an investment.”
Marcus forced Nardelli out in 2007 and brought in a Home Depot veteran to right the ship by returning the focus to developing and selling innovative products, exclusive to Home Depot. The mandate came with a cool code name — Project: Whitespace — and Herbst Produkt jumped at the chance to redesign humble products like the bucket that sell by the millions, but haven’t been improved on since their introduction decades ago.
Home Depot is also taking a page from values-driven companies like Patagonia and emphasizing how their products are made in addition to how they function. The Big Gripper bucket is part of the retailer’s “Made in America” initiative, which is attempting to “reshore” manufacturing jobs, and is being produced by a family-run company outside of Boston. “Any cost premiums are balanced out by the fast lead-time to market and incredibly, ridiculously, high volumes that Home Depot can support,” says Herbst.
The Big Gripper is available at Home Depot’s website and stores across the country.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Human Body Does Not Like Sitting For Long Periods Of Time

By selecting office furniture of an ergonomic design, you can create a more comfortable work environment. The human body does not like sitting for long periods of time.  Traditional seating can cause lower back pain. In addition, a work space that is not arranged properly can lead to neck and wrist pain.  It is important to select furniture that is well suited to the person or people that will be using it.  For communal equipment, it is a good idea to look for adjustable furniture.  That way each user can set their seat and desk so that it is most comfortable for them.

An ergonomic chair design is one where the body is positioned in such a way as to reduce the strain on the lower back.  One solution is the kneeling stool.  This consists of a backless stool with an angled knee rest.  The kneeling stool works by shifting the position of the hips forward, encouraging the user to sit up straight and reduce the strain on their back.  Other seating is not quite so exotic.  The height of the seat should be about one quarter of the height of the user, so by making the seat adjustable it can be used by people of various shapes and sizes.  Armrests are of benefit to anyone who spends most of their time typing, as they can reduce the strain on the arms and shoulders.
An ergonomic workstation design will include the ability to adjust the position of the computer monitor and keyboard.  The monitor should be directly above the keyboard, and should be raised so that the top of the screen is just above eye level.  The keyboard should be placed on an adjustable tray so that the user can raise or lower it to the most comfortable height.  It is never a good idea to use a keyboard or mouse that is placed on a standard table top.  This is generally too high for all potential users, and will lead to hand and wrist pain.  The ideal position is to have the keyboard at the same level as the elbows.

At the ErgoBack, you will find a wide selection of furniture of an ergonomic design.  From desks to seating to computer workstations, nobody sells more office solutions than we do.  Visit us online at  Be sure to check out our natural computer keyboards and mice as well.  We are proud to supply all of your company’s needs.

About Us

This blog is sponsored by ErgoBack, a company committed to providing ergonomically designed products including chairs and desks for the home/&office. We believe promoting ergonomic health in people's everyday lives is an important part of keeping individuals happy and healthy. Visit our online store at for the best deals on ergonomic chairs, desk, computer stations, and more.


For today’s typical employee, a large portion of their day will be spent working at a computer.  The layout of their work space can have a significant effect on their health and productivity.  A badly designed work space will force the worker to adopt awkward or stressful positions that can lead to muscle strains and repetitive stress injuries.  By using an ergonomic office desk, one can reduce the stress on the body and prevent such injuries.

For the typical computer user, the most common problems relate to the position of the monitor, the keyboard and the mouse.  The monitor is often too low.  The top of the screen should be just above eye level.  By raising the monitor to this height you reduce the strain on the back of the neck.

In contrast, the keyboard and the mouse are often positioned too high, especially when there is no keyboard tray.  The keyboard tray should be set so that the user’s forearms remain level and their wrists are straight.  If you find your wrists are bent upwards during typing, chances are your keyboard is too high. By continuing to work in that position, you run the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome; a condition where the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed resulting in pain and weakness in the hands.

The monitor should be directly above the keyboard.  Many people place their monitor off to the side in order to give themselves more work space.  While this may be okay for someone who does not use their computer very often, the prolonged use in this position, with the neck twisted to the side, can cause severe neck pain.

An ergonomic desk will be able to position the input and output devices of the computer for maximum comfort.  Ideally this positioning should be adjustable, as not everyone has the same body shape or size.  The correct keyboard height for one person may be quite a bit wrong for another.  An innovative solution is to select a table or workstation with an adjustable height.  This is a particularly good idea for any situation where different people will be asked to use the same equipment.

The best selection for anyone looking for an ergonomic desk can be found at   Visit us online today to check out the full range of products we offer.

About Us

This blog is sponsored by ErgoBack, a company committed to providing ergonomically designed products including chairs and desks for the home/&office. We believe promoting ergonomic health in people's everyday lives is an important part of keeping individuals happy and healthy. Visit our online store at for the best deals on ergonomic chairs, desk, computer stations, and more.