Philips has announced a new tool in the fight against office fatigue. Rather than prescribing shorter working days or more frequent breaks, Philips believes technology itself can be used to improve time spent at our desks staring at our screens.

Philips Ergo Sensor technology will take the form of a benign video monitor built into PC screens that analyses the user’s distance from the screen, whether they are sat too far forward or too far back and whether they are sitting at an awkward angle, straining their neck and pushing their spine out of alignment.

The Ergo Sensor takes the form of an embedded video camera CMOS. Although it looks like a webcam built into the screen’s frame, it doesn’t record data. Instead, it looks out for distance from the screen and whether both eyes are at the same height. This shows whether the user is looking at the screen straight or with their head cocked to one side. 

A discreet pop-up message appears at the bottom right of the screen suggesting a more comfortable position. Philips MMD’s product manager for Europe, Jeroen Brants, told PC Advisor that the messages that pop up are still being refined “so they sound less like your mother telling you what to do” and so they offer gentle encouragement to the user to adopt a better posture.

As well as “posture reporting”, Brants says the Ergo Sensor measures the user’s blink rate. Infrequent blinking is a sign of fatigue, he explains. In this case, the onscreen message will suggest you take a short screen break.

During our demonstration of the Ergo Sensor technology, we were advised to sit both further forward and further back from the screen so we didn’t slump over the desk or recline too much. A summary at the bottom of the screen indicated the warning messages generated. Brants says that future version of the technology is also likely to measure the amount of ambient light and let the user know if they need to increase or lower the lighting.

The Ergo Sensor technology will be offered in the Philips 241P4R 24in business monitor, which is due for launch in December. The 16:9 aspect ratio monitor will support full 1920x1080 resolutions, have a 13cm-height-adjustable stand and come with a built-in four-port USB hub and 3.5mm audio input.

Philips is also set to introduce a new version of its Ambilight technology in a revision to it recently-launched Moda design monitor. Ambilight 2 will feature in the 248XL3 24in full HD screen. In contrast to existing consumer Ambilight models, the new 24in business monitor will have a black bezel through which the blue Ambilight will shine. There are three user-adjustable Ambilight settings.

Blue LEDs are used as they mimic the bluish Xenon light of early mornings and encourage wakefulness. The lights help combat fatigue caused by dry eyes. Staring at screen for extended periods results in less frequent blinking, Philips has found. Blinking provides vital moisture that is important for the eyes’ health.