Greg Bright, of Keynamics, recently alerted me to his One Laptop Per Child posture website. While I find the site's layout visually painful, he makes an interesting point: educational laptops are not designed for a child's physical health.
Society has yet to see the long term effects of a child who has been hunching over a laptop, since the age of 5.Now the Children's Machine XO design isn't unique - it follows the basic laptop layout that Mr. Bright warns us about, maybe for the benefit of his company.
A quick look around any college campus, will show numerous examples of young bodies hunched over laptops in unsafe postures. Culminating repetitive strain injuries with every keystroke. They all look like Smeagol.
But could OLPC help improve the posture of young computer users before they become slump-shouldered adults? Might a good computer posture tutorial be part of the basic XO laptop orientation program?
A more dynamic, yet simpler health-positive change could come from the OLPC XO keyboard. I'm not talking Qwetry vs. Dvorak, there are too many non-English languages for the OLPC to worry about that argument. I am talking about a split ergonomic split keyboard that could save a few million wrists from repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you are a geek like I am, I know there are days when your fingers and wrists hurt. Some heavy users even have to have surgery to reduce the inflammations that normal keyboards inflict on the human hand. Standard square keyboards, be they straight or offset are not kind to those who type thousands of words per day.
Yet, maybe wrist RSI could also be mitigated through beginner user education. An OLPC Wiki contributor says:
If proper posture is utilized from the beginning, an individual can type rapidly on any surface including knees while seated on the floor. My experience has been as a typing teacher for 3rd - 12th graders. The arms should be loosely away from the body so that an upside down V is naturally formed from left elbow to left thumb on spacebar and right thumb to right elbow.Interesting. Maybe the OLPC's initial start-up activity could be a tutorial that reminds young, impressionable users how to correctly interface with a laptop computer - with both the body and the mind comfortably engaged in "learning learning".