How intelligent workstations will use AI to improve health and happiness

A person sitting at the computer screen surrounded by 4 screens

Do you want to be warm or cold? Is it time to stand rather than sit? An interdisciplinary team — made up of designers and USC professors — is using AI to create tech-savvy desks with health and well-being in mind.

Statistics show that if you’re reading this at work, you’re likely indoors at a table or a desk. If so, pause for a moment: How’s your posture? Is the room temperature comfortable? Lighting OK? In the U.S., 81 million office workers spend at least 75% of the day at a desk, and logging long hours in front of screens has been linked to significant health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. There has to be a better way of doing work.

Shawn C. Roll of the USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy — along with a team from USC and global design and engineering firm Arup — was recently awarded a $667,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to design a workstation that uses artificial intelligence. More than a smart desk that interacts with connected technology like a smartphone, this intelligent workstation will learn and adjust to worker preferences and patterns with the goal of improving overall well-being.

“The idea behind the workstation is not only to provide a comfortable work environment, but to move an individual toward healthier conditions,” explained Roll, an associate professor and director of USC Chan’s PhD in Occupational Science Program.

The project has three parts, he added: lighting, temperature and “my focus — ergonomics, injury prevention and productivity and performance.”

Health and well-being improvements via intelligent workstations

Burcin Becerik-Gerber, who is working alongside Roll, will be focused on thermal and visual comfort, two factors that can impact your health more than you might think.

“The current design of heating, cooling and lighting systems don’t accommodate the differences we have in our preferences,” said Becerik-Gerber, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Stephen Schrank Early Career Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “They’re designed for specific standards.”

Read the full story on USC News