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Does This Posture-Sensing Device Really Keep You Sitting Up Straight?

What if you got a buzz every time you slouched, even on the toilet? Testing the Lumo Back, we found out the limits of how far we would go to improve our posture.

As standing desk enthusiasts will constantly remind you, sitting down in front of a screen all day is terrible for your body. It’s difficult to not hunch over just a little bit, adding all sorts of strain to your back. Wearable health tech company Lumo calls the cluster of symptoms related to interacting with technology all day–eye strain, back pain, neck pain, headaches–Silicon Valley Syndrome. And while the company doesn’t claim to have a cure, it does sell two products, the Lumo Back and Lumo Lift, that could help sufferers sit up a little bit straighter. I tested out one of them for a week to see if it would make a difference in my hunched-over daily work routine.

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As a kid, my grandmother used to poke my lower back whenever she noticed I was slouching. The Lumo Back, a sensor that you strap around your waist, is the digital version of my grandmother. It’s easy to set up: Put the device on, download the accompanying app, and wait for the Lumo Back to buzz every time you hunch over.

In my case, that meant a lot of buzzing. According to the sensor, my posture while working is terrible and so I received a buzz every few minutes. Even while standing up, the sensor buzzed me. On the toilet, it buzzed me. The buzzing never ended, and so I had to remove the device altogether more than a few times.


The accompanying app provides some useful context. A little stick figure on the screen turns orange when you slouch and green when you sit up straight. The app also shows the total amount of time you’ve slouched or sat straight up during the day, and even offers an overall “posture score.” Just for fun, the Lumo Back also threw in data about the number of steps I took in my daily routine.

After a week of wearing the Lumo Back, I emerged sitting a little bit taller, though I probably lost most of my progress after a couple days. And with a price tag of $150, the Lumo Back is only for people with serious posture aspirations (or people with conditions like scoliosis). For everyone else, Lumo has announced a second product: the Lumo Lift, a cheaper ($69 to pre-order) and smaller product that can be clipped on magnetically anywhere in the chest area, either under your shirt or facing the world.

The Lift is the more casual version of the Lumo Back, with a focus on the upper body instead of the lower back. “With Lumo Back, we proved we can give people a lot of information, a lot of very accurate information,” explains Lumo BodyTech co-founder Charles Wang. “Lumo Back has found a home with people who want to know what they’re doing with their lower back, but it’s more and more common for people to have upper back, shoulder, and neck pain because of laptops.”


I haven’t tested the Lumo Lift in person, but Wang gave me a Skype tour. In many ways, the Lift is similar to the Lumo Back. When your posture deteriorates, you get buzzed. Your progress is tracked on an app. But that buzzing is, thankfully, optional–you can turn it on by going into “PowerUp mode.” Since the device is so much smaller than the Lumo Back, it’s also a more effective activity tracker. You might actually wear this thing when you leave the house, unlike the Lumo Back.

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“It’s much more mass-market ready in comparison to Lumo Back,” says Wang. Lumo is taking pre-orders for the Lift through a crowdfunding campaign. At the time of writing, over $500,000 has been raised out of a $200,000 goal.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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