Pushing pixels for a living is a far, far cry from doing eight to 10 hours a day of, say, construction labor. But gripping a Wacom pen or mouse for hours on end, day in and day out, can still take a physical toll. Cloudeck, a startup founded by Kenneth Wu and Ben Chan, has created an intriguing iPad app called Airmov that tries to address this problem by turning your tablet into a graphical yoga mat for your fingers.
Airmov pings you throughout the day to remind you to stop working and give your hands a “stretch break,” which the app provides via the iPad’s multitouch display. You spread your palm onscreen and then press your fingertips down with gently increasing pressure for about 15 seconds as a progress bar fills in. Airmov also has other stretching exercises that include game-like elements and cute animations to keep you motivated.
Is Airmov scientifically proven to make a damn bit of difference in staving off carpal tunnel? Not that I can tell. But if simply sitting in a chair for hours at a time can actually harm your health, it probably can’t hurt to take regular breaks stretching your hands and fingers out, too. “I have been using a Wacom
stylus for the past 7 years,” Wu tells Co.Design via email about his inspiration to create Airmov. “My right hand is overused and I cannot use the mouse anymore.”
“The real problem is not about us. It is about the next generation,” Wu continues. “Korea and other countries are replacing textbooks with tablet computers by 2015. Handheld device users are getting younger and younger. Their ‘finger mileage’ from flicking and clicking will easily surpass our own. The earlier they adapt stretching as a habit/routine/culture, the better.”
Doing odd little stretching exercises feels weird, which is a design problem that Wu hopes Airmov–with its clean, inviting user interface and clever game mechanics and visual encouragements–can sidestep. Maybe apps like Airmov will become a point of pride for future startups that want to send a message about caring for the physical health of their designers and coders, much like in-house gyms and healthy snack foods are a staple of Silicon Valley giants today. But even if you use Airmov to keep your creative digits limber, just remember to heave your ass out of that Aeron chair every two hours or so, too.