ISSUE 542: The high tech office- March
Microsphere's Workstation offers
Did any of
the furniture in your office come with its own CD-ROM disk? If the
folks at Vancouver startup Microsphere have their way, that's
what you'll be getting. Along with a workstation to replace your
current desk and chair that comes with a little sack of tools, an Ikea-like
instruction booklet, extensions cords for your computer's cables,
you'll receive a multimedia CD disk showing how to make the most of
your new purchase.
Microsphere's M-1 Workstation, looking
like a cross between a dentist chair and something off the Starship
Enterprise, is designed and engineered to cure the aches and pains that
are normally the result of spending a day at a desk, particularly
typing and looking at a computer screen.
The chair comes, like a Model-T Ford,
in any colour you want as long as it's black. It's a frame of metal
tubes, covered in thin, but tough mesh fabric. Light and air passes
through it, keeping you cooler through those long hours slaving away at
the keyboard and it's flexible enough to wrap around the user, adding
support where needed.
There's an adjustable headrest and
separate foot-rest. In fact, the chair is almost infinitely adjustable,
adapting to different body shapes and sizes. It can even be set to
There's a pillar nearby connected to
the stand just like a dentist chair. On the pillar are a couple of arms
ending in trays, also almost infinitely adjustable. One tray is
designed to hold the keyboard and mouse with (southpaws take note) room
for the mouse on both the left and right side. An added-cost second
level can be added for those low tech times when you want to write on
Above that, there's a Canadarm-like
extension ending in a tray to support a computer monitor. It supports
monitors weighing up to 100 pounds and has a set of seatbelts so the
monitor won't end up on your lap or the floor if you swing it around
too suddenly. These only work on monitors with firmly-attached pivot
stands. iMac owners may be out of luck here. For those who feel like
they never want to leave their comfortable workstation, the company is
developing additional units, such as a coffee cup holder. Other options
include a side-piece with drawers and places to fit your phone and
computer CPU. Cables can be snaked through a black vacuum-cleaner-like
hose, which neatly clips out of the way.
Installed in my home office, the whole
thing takes up almost all the floor space. Not surprisingly, it doesn't
tuck neatly into a desk. But if I've got to keep it, I'd get rid of one
of the desks. By itself, the workstation takes up less floor space than
a typical office desk and chair. Of course, I'd have to find somewhere
else to stack piles of papers--though I suppose if I mentioned it, the
team at Microsphere just might develop a solution for that!
Oh yeah, the price. At US$1,895 (call
it C$2,750 or so), it's not cheap, but it is replacing both desk and
chair, and offering unparalleled comfort and support for workers who
are chained to a computer all day. I don't know of any scientific
studies proving ergonomic benefits, but I'm prepared to believe that
there are some.
As well, the solid design and use of
quality parts suggests that this unit will last over the long haul.
Even with a large monitor strapped on, for instance, the tray slides
into position smoothly and with virtually no effort.
During the time it's been in place in
my office, most people's first impression was one of surprise. The high
tech look takes some getting used to. But everyone wanted to try it out
-- and most of the people who sat in it were quickly made into
converts. It may not fit into your d?cor or floor plan and the price
may be more than the budget allows, but once you sit in it and work
with it, you'll probably end up wanting it.
Microsphere's booth was a hit at both
January's Vancouver Comdex and the bigger show in Las Vegas
last November. If you missed them there, check the company out, either
at their Yaletown location or at their Web site (www.microsphere.com).
And if you're feeling flush, the workstation (you need to come up with
a better name than Microsphere M-1, guys!) can be ordered online. *