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OFF BEAT: Tablet computer use could lead to injury risk


Tablet computer users may run the risk of neck and shoulder pain after prolonged use of the devices, a group of scientists said in a newly published, and very small, study.

The study, commissioned by the United States Department of Environmental Health, the Harvard School of Public Health and Microsoft Corp., among others, examined the effects of media tablet computers on users and was published this month in “Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation.”

Two tablets, Apple Inc.’s iPad 2 and Motorola Mobility Inc.’s Xoom, were tested among 15 experienced users who performed simple computer tasks including browsing the Internet and reading email, according to the study.

An infrared motion analysis system measured head and neck postures as users completed the tasks in four typical user configurations: on the lap and held with the user’s hands; on the lap and in a case; on a table in a case; and on a table in a case set at a high angle for watching movies, according to the study.

The results?

“The use of media tablet computers is associated with high head and neck flexion postures, especially compared to those for typical desktop computing scenarios,” the scientists said in the study. “These postures are affected by the type of case used to support the tablets as well as the location of the device.”

The scientists said that according to the data, head and neck posture can be improved through case designs that allow for better viewing angles and by not using the device at “lap-level locations.”

A tablet that floats in mid-air at eye level may not be far from being developed, to be sure.