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Muscoloskeletal Disoder: A Potential Health Risk of Multitouch Devices

Written on July 05, 2010 by Japhet Writ

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Eventually, computer mouses will be phased out in the future. Together with this is the creation of a million dollar industry to treat MSDs.

With the runway popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, multi touch devices is today’s big thing. However, the multi touch user input technology can pose an unforeseen consequences. Little is yet known about the infliction that multi touch input systems can cause on our muscle, nerves and tendons.

Assistant Professor Kanav Kahol of the Arizona State University is leading a research project on the amount of stress placed on hands and wrists of individuals that uses multi touch electronic devices like Apple’s iPad. The ASU project aims to develop the best practices and standard interaction between human and machine interface. This way, the users can fully benefit from the new levels of immersion that the multi touch interaction offers.

We don’t naturally think that the use of iPhone or iPad can lead to Musculoskeletal Disorder (). “Multitouch systems might be great for usability of a device, but we just don’t know what it does to our musculoskeletal system,” says Prof. Kahol. He observes that as we gear toward a world where human-computer interaction is based on various movements that are not well studied, we face grave risks of developing technology and system that can cause . And many of today’s multi touch systems give no consideration on eliminating gestures that can lead to injuries or that are symptomatic of a patient population. Before we create another man-made diseases such as the , it is important that this issue must be addressed.

Development of accurate multi-digit hand movement simulations that can predict muscle fatigue is one of the many solutions researchers are looking into. “When we developed the keyboard, we didn’t think through how working with it would affect the hands, arms, etc.,” Kahol said. “As a result, it created a multi-million dollar industry in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. That is what we want to prevent with multi touch systems. We are going for the preventative, rather than the curative.”

As the old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”.

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