Presence-Detecting Cushion Keeps You From Sitting Your Life Away

They say that sitting is the new smoking. They’re wrong — smoking is much, much worse, for you than sitting, and smoking only while standing or while jogging around the block in no way to justify the habit. But they’re also not wrong that humans weren’t made for extended periods parked on their posteriors, but we do it anyway, to the detriment of our heart health, posture, and general well-being. So something like this butt-detecting stand-up reminder could make a big difference to your health.

While like many of us, [Dave Bennett] has a wearable that prompts him to get up and move around after detecting 30 minutes of sitting, he found that it’s too easy to dismiss the alarm and just go right on sitting. Feeling like he needed a little more encouragement to get up and go, he built a presence detector completely from scratch. His sensor is a sheet of static-protective Velostat foam wrapped in conductive tape; when compressed, the resistance across the pad drops, making it easy to detect with a simple comparator circuit.

We admit to getting excited when we first saw the alarm circuit; a quick glance at the schematic seemed like it was based on a 555, which it totally could be. But no, [Dave]’s design goals include protection against spoofing the alarm with a quick “cheek sneak,” which was most easily implemented in code. So that 8-pin device in the circuit is an ATtiny85, which sounds the alarm after 30 minutes and requires him to stay off his butt for a full minute before resetting. The video below hits the high points of design and shows it in use.

Annoying? Yes, but that’s the point. Of course a standing desk would do the same thing, but that’s not going to work for everyone, so this is a nice alternative.

13 thoughts on “Presence-Detecting Cushion Keeps You From Sitting Your Life Away

    1. I mean look at the average health in the 1970s compared to today. I don’t know exactly what the factors are, but obviously we reduced smoking dramatically—yet we also introduced other things far far worse for human health.

      1. I recently read an article that covered the average calorie intake, energy expenditure and lifestyle over the last hundred years, and it isn’t just that our culture eats too much and moves too little.

        They also found that wild animals in areas with little contact with humans or human food waste were also heavier than they used to be. There’s something systemic we’ve introduced (or been introduced to) that’s impacting metabolism widely.

    2. I was looking a old films of places like Bondi beach in Sydney Australia from 80 to 100 years ago and the difference in the physical build of almost all of the people is very pronounced, right up to the late 1960’s people were so much leaner, then something happened and it can’t have just been “computers” as that is more of a 21st century malaise that is just making the existing trend much worse. Some have speculated that it is endocrine disruptors and changes to the food supply, more manufactured food. It isn’t just a threat to your life, it is making you infertile. The irony is that if you live like a poor, mostly vegetarian, subsistence farmer (e.g. Okinawans of the past) you will be a lot healthier than the majority of modern first worlders. I call it the great blubber filter, and it is wiping out any bloodlines that don’t have the common sense to see what is happening. Hack your lifestyle and diet, and make sure you RTFM for your body and mind too.

    3. I think the switch from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup is a major culprit for all the weight gain.
      Also, kids aren’t allowed to play outside anymore, so young people just START-OUT fat.

      1. sugar is sugar, it is the amount; not sucrose versus corn derived. The problem is two-fold. Diet and exercise. Obesity is the “new normal”. You’re not a victim, you are a hog. Take charge. Build one of these gadgets, or do something, anything.

          1. Technically they are both sugar. Table sugar is sucrose, a 12 carbon sugar. Your body has an enzyme that breaks it in half into (guess what?) glucose and fructose so you can digest it, and guess what? That is the same thing as high fructose corn syrup (which is very close to a 50/50 mix of fructose and glucose). Fructose and glucose are each 6 carbon sugars. Raw corn syrup is all glucose, which doesn’t taste sweet, so another enzyme is used to flip about half of it to the sweet tasting fructose.

  1. Looking at the bright orange cushion for this project, I can’t help but think of one of those cushions that you sit on and get embarrassed by a loud rude noise. That would be a great mod to this project. Every hour if you haven’t gotten up for some period of time, it would release all the air and make the rude noise. May as well drop you onto a hard seat while it is at it.
    Heck, I would buy one of those.

  2. Came here to warn humans of ‘advanced’ age’ ; that is, over 60. Like an old car, the older human body will go downhill quickly without proper maintenance.

    Background. Have always been active. Frequently hike in desert mountains and work on my property. Still chase the wife around the house.

    My last contract was mostly code-monkey work. Sat on my butt for 9 days straight. After job completed, Attempted immediate return to my norm. Reduced cardio/lung capacity, constant cough for about two weeks, stiffness in all lower joints, not able to weed wack for more than 45 minutes, disorientation for a few minutes each morn after waking, dizziness, and other such unusual body issues.

    My old body required about a month to recover from those nine ass-bound days. I’m back to normal and have promised myself I will never do another code-intensive job again.

  3. I find it funny that a few years ago a built something similar BUT FOR THE EXACT OPPOSITE PURPOSE! The two cushins I made were intended to motivate my young children to remain seated during meals ;-) . They had a “success music” if seating for 30 minutes. They could leave their chair during meals but the cushin would start to call them back gently after 30 seconds. If ignored they had a “failure music” otherwise the counter would resume toward success. This was one of my first project so I used an arduino nano and a 9V but this was not the best choice for battery life as I fugured after…. The project worked great for a few days then the kids got fed-up and the music was no longer motivating enough ;-)

    Project page (in French):
    Video demo by the kids:

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