How is your posture? Perfect? I doubt it. Trying to sit up straight is something it’s easy to forget to do, and slumping into a slouch happens all too often. But bad posture is not good for our long term health. So how do you improve it?
I’ve been testing the LUMOback for the last couple of weeks. Its primary aim is to help you get a better posture, though the app it employs to achieve this does a fair bit more too.
The LUMOback is a two part affair. There’s a sensor plate that’s attached to a belt you wear and which has to be positioned in the small of your back. This vibrates when your posture is less than perfect.
There is also an app that communicates with the sensor using Bluetooth. You can’t use the LUMOback without first downloading the app as it is needed to set the sensor up.
The app is iOS only at present, and is compatible with iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 5th generation, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display and iPad Mini. Android support will be coming in 2014, but not for all Android devices – you are best of checking www.lumoback.com for compatibility details, but as I write supported devices are the Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Nexus 5 and Nexus 4.
Vodafone kindly lent me an iPhone 5c for my review.
During initial setup you configure the sensor – via the app – to vibrate just the once to let you know you have slipped or to pulse continually all the time you are doing the wrong thing.
Once you’ve set the LUMOback up you can refine the vibration settings by making it more intense – I preferred a fairly light touch but you might like something more insistent. You can also decide how long it waits for you to be in a bad posture before it alerts you, and decide what actually constitutes bad posture.
As I noted earlier, for the sensor to work properly the plate needs to fit into the small of your back – and sometimes that will mean you need to wear it over clothes rather than under them. Either way I found it comfortable to wear – so comfortable, in fact, that I only ever noticed it when the plate was vibrating.
The design is extremely simple. The plate is quite small – 4.1cm wide, 10cm long and 0.8cm thick. It has a loop on each end into which is threaded a section of elasticated belt. Loops on the belt mean you can adjust the length of each section, using a Velcro square to secure the length you need. Rather than second guess how much you might want to alter the sections’ length, the Velcro adheres all the way along. The belt fixes around you with a second Velcro square at the front.
The app gives you plenty of help here, showing you how the LUMOback works as you step through the setup process.
You need to fit the belt tight enough that you will be able to feel the sensor – and that it can sense your posture accurately, but not so tight that you are conscious of wearing it. The elastic helps here as it means there’s quite a lot of play as you move around and shift position, for example when sitting.
The LUMOback is charged via a standard USB connector – the kind you probably already have for your phone or Kindle. A single charge lasts between five and seven days and there’s a status light which pulses orange while it is charging, and is a solid green when charging is complete.
I found that during the couple of weeks I used the LUMOback a small charge now and then while I was sitting at my computer was enough to keep it going. ThatI chose that charging option mostly because the sensor doesn’t issue any kind of a warning about how much battery power is left. Either the app or the sensor – and ideally both – should tell me what the charge level is and give me a warning if I won’t get through the next 24 hours without a power boost.
The charge light has other functions. It flashes when you turn the LUMOback on and off, and a blue flashing light indicates that it is connected to your iOS device and exchanging data. If it isn’t connected, for example if you go out of Bluetooth range, the sensor just carries on gathering data and sends it to your handset next time it makes a connection.
There’s no web app associated with the LUMOback. All the date it gathers and manages is accessed only via your iOS device. That might make it sound limited, but in fact the app is quite sophisticated. It knows the difference between walking and running, between standing and sitting, it knows when you are going up stairs. And it knows when you are asleep too. It can count steps, and come up with the distance you’ve travelled in any particular day.
The LUMOback app has been designed with a very light touch, but not a little wit. I really love the little stick people it uses on its main screen to indicate what activity you are doing and whether your posture is OK. You get a whiff of these during setup when you have to sit, slouch, walk and stand to help calibrate the sensor.
The app picks up what you are doing quickly, and the little graphic turns from green (good) to orange (bad) as you move around, sitting almost immediately you sit, standing and doing its walking action as you do those things. When I showed this to other people they were quite mesmerised by it mimicking my actions!
Your ‘straight’ and ‘slouch’ time are recorded, and the app gives you a posture score which is compared with all the other scores collected to show how good you are against the average.
It also does this with distance traveled – and you’ll notice it makes a stab at calories burned – it uses your height and weight information to calculate both distance calories.
It even counts the number of times you stand up and gives you a report, a goal, and the average for all users.
As I noted earlier, the app can tell the difference between walking and running and gives you a breakdown of how long you’ve spent doing either.
This is all useful stuff, and I can see how the LUMOback could replace a standard pedometer and add extra information about posture into the mix. But there seems to be an issue with accuracy.
Look at that graphic above. I did not run a step on that particular day, yet the app thinks I ran a little bit at 9am, a bit more at 7pm and for a chunk in the middle of the day. I was probably walking faster at those times rather than running.
It’s not all that accurate with distance measurement, either. On one test I took it out with a pedometer that I trust – my Fitbit One which is calibrated nicely to my average stride length. When the Fitbit One said I had done 2630 steps the LUMOback said I had done 3086. Over time it will, likely, tell me I have gone further than I really have. It would be good to see the next version of the app allow me to input my stride length to help get that measurement more accurate.
The sensor is a bit overly sensitive too. If you wiggle about in your chair – getting settled in, it seems to think you are walking. That’s probably not a big thing, really, and it will only add a very short time of walking to any day’s statistics, but a few seconds delay in recording movement as walking would make that measurement more accurate.
As well as improved accuracy I’d like to see some more features in the mix. There’s obvious room for ‘gamification’ with rewards for good performance. The ability to get social and share achievements would appeal to some people too. And it would be nice to see a web based app built into the software ecosystem.
Still, these points don’t put me off the LUMOback either in concept or in practice. My posture could certainly do with a bit of help, and I feel the LUMOback is providing that. It is easy to set up, easy to use, and there are even some videos in the app designed to teach you how to improve your posture.
The LUMOback is a clever device that should help those with poor posture improve – and that’s good for long term health. The belt is comfy to wear, and the sensor is not obtrusive in issuing its little prods to sit or stand up straight. The app is well designed and easy to use. There is definite room for improvement on both the app and sensor side, but as it stands this is still a compelling device.
- Easy to adjust belt
- Belt is comfy to wear
- App and belt pair seamlessly
- App setup is easy and fast
- App looks great
- App reporting is good and it compares you with the average of users
- App not accurate at measuring distances
- App could do with a little tweaking
- Sensor and/or app need battery life indicator
Manufacturer: LUMO BodyTech