Live Report from Ergo Expo 2013

December 16, 2013
Ergo expo 2013

This year’s ErgoExpo show evidenced an explosive growth occurring in ergonomic products, with some 200 exhibitors showing off their latest models of adjustable height desks, treadmill desks, desktop risers, monitor arms, ergonomic keyboards, keyboard trays, a wide assortment of ergonomic mice, pointing devices, posture remedies, and the plethora of ergonomic chairs we’ve come to expect from the expo.

One of the most exciting new categories is the leaning chair – which places users somewhere in between a standing and sitting position, a posture that is remarkably comfortable and easy on the lower back. Started by the design geniuses behind Focal Upright’s Locus Seat and and the German-made Muvman, the category has rapidly evolved with numerous new entrants. Look for our reviews of all the products in this growing class over the next few months, including the Varier Move stool and Focal Upright’s Mogo.

The treadmill desk category is best described as “utterly transformed.” Granddaddy Steelcase was present with its antiquated Walkstation – a product that sells for more than any competitor yet still looks like the circa 2007 prototype that it is. Not 50 paces away sat the shiny new LifeSpan units that have wrested market dominance away from the office furniture giant over the past two years. Seeing these two product lines side by side really brings out the stark contrast in their vintage, styling and underlying technology. Steelcase didn’t even bother plugging their treadmill in, while many show attendees took an energizing spin on a LifeSpan. Rebel Desk was a last-minute no-show, their booth empty, and TreadDesk didn’t bother to exhibit this year. LifeSpan’s winner-take-all strategy seems to be working, if this show was any indication.

Desktop risers are appearing in larger numbers now, clamoring to meet rapidly rising demand from all those people who want to stand, but don’t want to give up their favorite sitting desk. Flash-in-the-pan VariDesk and steadfast Ergotron didn’t have anything new to show, while Kangaroo decided to stay in their pouch this year. But HealthPostures showed off all their sleek TaskMate electric desktop riser models, as well as a new manual version, and Ergotech debuted a couple of exciting new prototypes of their Freestand line that they expect to re-introduce at much lower prices early next year. Desktop Elevator rounded out the category with new cost-reduced versions of their luxurious, wide and heavy risers. We expect to review all the new ones in the near future, and to continue seeing entrants flooding into this dynamic market.

There were more adjustable-height desks on display than ever before, with all the usual suspects showing their latest – Humanscale, Focal Upright, UpDesk, GeekDesk, ISE and Anthro, among many others. The electrics outnumbered the cranks and counterbalance desks 20-to-1. This was perhaps the biggest “me too” category, with few, if any, notable new innovations. Same can be said for the wide smattering of monitor arm and keyboard tray manufacturers, each claiming the exact same differentiations as their competitors, but few offering anything truly new and interesting to report on. (It perpetually puzzles us why vendors don’t walk the show before the attendees enter, to see who they’re up against.)

Posture-correcting products were out in force, as well. We were particularly enamored with the new Lumoback Posture Sensor and the Intelliskin Posture-Correcting Apparel. We meet many sedentary workers wanting to improve their posture, and these products might do the trick. Be sure to catch our upcoming reviews of these surprisingly affordable high-tech solutions (well, cheaper than all those medical visits, anyway).

Ergonomic keyboards became chic again with a new, folding, traveler’s model from GoldTouch that is wireless and fashionable, yet fully ergonomic. Microsoft is also finally replacing the aging Natural keyboard with their new Sculpt model. Kinesis – still the granddaddy of ergo keyboards – had a packed booth as usual. Microsoft won the crowded booth award at the show this year, but then they can afford to give away thousands of $129 keyboards for the price of a spare business card.

Next up, pointing devices. ErgoExpo drew more mice than a cheese curd convention, and some new gizmos that replace mice but look nothing like them. We can’t wait to review the new products from Contour, Evoluent, Moustrapper, DXT, Oyster Mouse, and Handshoe Mouse. Guess we should also throw in the new Microsoft Sculpt Mouse that comes bundled with the Sculpt Ergo Keyboard and Numpad for good measure.

In the miscellaneous category several new companies demonstrated plastic devices that sit between your keyboard and monitor to raise items up to your reach, ergonomically. These look like great additions to any treadmill desk for sure, and probably most standing and sitting desks as well. Look for reviews on the Gooduse MicroDesk and their competitor BakkerElkhuizen. One of the coolest things we saw at the show was a copy holder that attaches to the VESA clamp right behind your LCD monitor, from Vu Ryte. This versatile device can hold iPads, notepads, working papers and all sorts of things with its very clever, ultra-adjustable design.

Like the Lumoback posture sensor, the Roost clamshell laptop holder got its start with a spectacularly successful Kickstarter funding campaign, and has come into its own as a bona fide manufacturer about to introduce a new height-adjustable model. Lastly, there were lots of footrest products at the show, as you might imagine, but this Newhouse model from JRB caught our eye for being uniquely reversible for use with either a sitting desk or standing desk.

Be sure to check out the final reviews we will be publishing over the coming months of all the new products mentioned above!

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