[Update: The Aspirus is now known as “Altizen“]
Before Aspirus‘s Co-founders, the Singapore-based entreprenuers Andrew Mcdonnell and Yuying Deng, conceived the concept of a smart workstation, they were in the business importing third-party standing desks. Through their frequent engagement with their clients, they noticed a rather peculiar trend.
Some of them, although well aware of the health benefits of working standing up, left their standing desk to gather dust after a couple of months. They would either not adjust their desks to standing height, or sit at another place to work.
“They said that it was troublesome to unscrew it and raise it up. And when you push it down again it was difficult, because of the springs produce some resistance. They felt that it wasn’t worth the trouble. Otherwise, they get busy and forget [to adjust the desks],” said Deng in an interview with e27.
Realising that this was a pain point (both figuratively and literally) that required an innovative remedy, the Co-founders grabbed the opportunity to create a smart standing workstation that was both intuitive and ergonomic.
“There were two things we wanted to implement. First, a one-touch elevation system. Second, a reminder system that would prompt them to transition [between sitting and standing] for their own health,” explains Deng.
On the workstation or using the Aspirus app , users can set a preset height and raise the workstation or lower it with a touch of button. They can press and hold another button on the workstation until it reaches their desired height.
The workstation also slides up and down silently, a critical factor for any office space because you don’t want it creaking like a rusty door hinge.
“We also didn’t want it to be so obtrusive. For example, rising up by itself. We wanted the reminder system to be something we could acknowledge and turn off and say ‘OK, I’ll do it in a while’,” she adds.
The user first sets the sit-stand reminder in the Aspirus app. The Aspirus icon on the desk then emits a soft glow to gently alert the user when it’s time.
A wise move, because a more intrusive reminder, say, a blast of flashing red lights shining would probably result in a broken desk. Forget back pain, you are going to need stitches instead.
Detecting the user’s presence
For the reminders to work accurately, the workstation needs to be able to deduce how long a user has been at the workstation. Deng claims that the workstation is able to accurately detect a person’s presence in front of it. It can also detect whether the person is sitting or standing and for how long.
“The algorithm [for the sensors] was challenging to develop. It’s not easy to know whether the person is in front of the desk. We did a lot of research into sensors. Sometimes, a chair or even just a heat source could be detected as a presence in front of the desk. We had to use various types of sensors and write an algorithm so that it could triangulate whether the person is present or not accurately,” says Deng.
Eventually they used a combination of an IR sensor and another type of sensor, which cannot be disclosed publicly at this stage.
Deng also has plans to integrate the Aspirus smart workstation with wearables.
“Eventually, we want to merge this data [collected using the Aspirus app] with wearables like Fitbit or Apple Watch so that you can get a holistic picture of how many calories you are burning and as well as your activity level. Because, if we factor in the calories burnt of someone fidgeting while standing up, that presents a more holistic picture,” she says.
In addition to the aforementioned features, the Aspirus app also enables you to set daily stand goals, and even monitor and track your sit-stand habits and trends.
Also Read: Meet RoBoHoN, the world’s cutest smartphone
Measuring up against the competition
On its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign page, Aspirus claims to be the “world’s first smart standing workstation”.
A bold claim, you might think, seeing as there already is a “smart desk” – simply called SmartDesk , which similarly sought funding from Indiegogo and raised a staggering 1,257 per cent of its campaign goal.
Deng, however, claims that the Aspirus is very different from the SmartDesk, both in function and design.
“The SmartDesk is a full-size desk but Aspirus is a workstation that can be placed on, and used on any surface like your existing desk or your bay window. Aspirus addresses the problem of sedentary work directly by being a personal workplace health coach. SmartDesk positions itself more as a personal assistant with features like a voice control to dim the lights,”she says.
There is also a vast difference in price. The full smart version of the SmartDesk comes with a price tag of US$799, while Aspirus costs US$300 less with all its smart features included.
“Aspirus also comes with a mount for your screen — be it a laptop, monitor or dual monitors — that can be adjusted independently. This is very important for an ergonomic posture. Smart Desk does not come [with] any mounts. For example, you would have to place your screen on the desk itself,” she says.
Perhaps the Aspirus’s most unique value proposition is its human-detecting sensor technology, which the SmartDesk lacks.
Is it the superior product? We will leave it to you to decide.
The Aspirus crowdfunding campaign is picking up steam. It is at 83 per cent just seven days after its launch, with an ample 24 days to hit its goal of US$50,000.