A study just released by the Harvard School for Public Health warns that people who use iPads and other tablets may be at risk for injury. Researchers used infrared 3D motion analysis to put together their findings.
“Some of the postures people are in when using a tablet can be awkward and lead to discomfort with prolonged use,” said Jack Dennerlein, the director of Harvard’s Operations and Biomechanics Ergonomics Laboratory. The study points to neck and shoulder problems, in particular, which may be more prominent with tablets than with desktop computers.
Infrared analysis showed that as people use tablet computers, they tend to bend their necks more than they do when they use desktop computers or laptops. Over the long term, this awkward positioning could lead to long-term problems associated with the extra strain on the neck and shoulder muscles.
Desktop computers and especially laptops have long been associated with ergonomics issues. Compact keyboards, particularly on laptops, are thought to contribute to repetitive stress injury. Also, because the monitors on laptops are not positioned away from the keyboard, people who use laptops have to look down, thus causing poor posture.
Also, users of both desktops and laptops have reported eyestrain as a consequence of using a monitor all day. However, the Harvard study is the first of its kind to suggest that using a tablet could have certain physiological risks.
Dennerlein offers several remedies to reduce neck and shoulder strain. For example, he recommends changing position at least every 15 minutes or at least taking some time to gently rotate the neck. He also recommends using a case, which helps to prop the tablet at a 30-degree angle.
Tablet sales won’t be decreasing anytime soon. JP Morgan (News - Alert) expects tablet sales to increase to 99.3 million units in 2012, which is a 55.2 percent increase over 2011. The analyst cited the popularity and low price point of the Kindle Fire and suggested that its success would put pressure on other tablets to lower their price points. Despite some erosion of Apple’s (News - Alert) dominance, JP Morgan predicts that Apple will still ship 45.5 million iPads this year, which will account for a 46 percent market share.
Industry analysts expect tablets based on Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Windows 8 operating system to be available sometime this fall. They also suggest that when Apple rolls out the iPad 3, which is already being manufactured, the technology powerhouse will keep its iPad 2 in circulation as a competitor to those lower priced tablets.
Australian scientist Dr. Jodi Oakman issued a warning about tablets last August and stated that using the tablet for reading wasn’t a problem. Problems arose, according to Oakman, when people utilize the iPad for other tasks, like typing.
“Don’t use it to replace the computer,” she said, “unless you give serious consideration to how the work station is set up.”
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Jacqueline Lee is a TMCnet contributor who produces web content, blogs and articles for numerous websites including wikiHow.com. Her background is in business and education.
Edited by Jennifer Russell