This article documents a slice of ergonomic history that would otherwise go unnoticed. In 2022, a gaming chair vs ergonomic office chair debate has a clear (technical) winner. Circa 2022, racing-style gaming chairs (as a collective industry) have superior ergonomic functionality. This article documents recent gaming chair innovations that have leveled the ergonomic seating field.
The world’s first gaming chair emerged in 2006, during the height of the desktop computing era. Sixteen years later, new multi-device ergonomic priorities have arisen. These are in response to an emerging Internet of Things (IoT).
IoT describes a network of “things” that contain sensors, software, and other technologies. These connect and exchange data with other systems over the internet. In time, these systems are intended to wrap society in a perpetual state of near-virtual reality.
Imagine hundreds of computers embedded in a room yet “invisible to common awareness. People will simply use them unconsciously to accomplish everyday tasks.”(1)
The Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics(2) documents the latest standards in workplace environment design. For the ubiquitous computing era, the latest 5th edition lists three ergonomic design priorities:
- Physical technostress: excessive use of laptops, tablets, and smartphones will increase the risks for musculoskeletal disorders.
- Gadget fatigue: users become overwhelmed when choosing appropriate digital gadgets.
- Mental technostress: cognitive overload from using too many complicated gadgets at once.
The gaming chair industry has already pivoted to incorporate these new guidelines. In doing so, it matched and then exceeded the feature sets of ergonomic office chairs.
Recent Gaming Chair Tech Advances
This 1904-2022 ergonomic evolution timeline shows that technology drives seating innovations. For instance, when farmers shifted to desk work in the early 1900s, the standard office chair emerged.
When office computing emerged in the early 1990s, ergonomic office chairs soon followed. When esports exploded a decade later, gaming chairs appeared on the scene.
As the multi-device commuting era unfolds, the gaming chair industry has already started to adapt. with a series of groundbreaking innovations. Here are the top-7 major gaming chair innovations released in the past 12 months:
4-way Integrated Lumbar Support
The purpose of a chair’s lumbar support is to put mild pressure into a user’s lower back curve. However, human spines come in various sizes. The average has a 30″ spine with an average lumbar length of 5 inches. Meanwhile a typical female’s lumbar is around 24″ long(3).
Surprisingly, a lot of the world’s best ergonomic chairs fail to account for different sizes. For instance, one of the Herman Miller Aeron chair’s star features is its Posturefit lumbar support system. Unlike other types, it has two pads to support two parts of the lower spine.
However, you can only adjust its depth, not the height. If you’re lucky, it will fit your exact spinal curves. But if the pads hit a shade too high or low, they’ll feel like bricks jamming into your spine!
L-Adapt Lumbar System
In June 2021, Secretlab released the latest iteration of its flagship Titan gaming chair. The Titan Evo 2022 Series comes in three sizes and 43+ styles, with groundbreaking improvements under the hood.
For instance, this is the world’s first gaming chair with 4-way integrated lumbar support. Toggle the dial on the left to set the height of the unit. When you find your sweet spot, turn the dial on the right to set the perfect depth.
As a bonus, a matrix of 63 adaptive hinges lays over the unit. These hug your spinal cord and flex left or right as you shift positions.
Gaming vs office chair lumbar: among the world’s best ergonomic office chairs, only two have 4-way adjustable lumbar support. These famous high-end chairs don’t: Herman Miller Aeron & Embody; Steelcase Gesture & leap; Sidiz T80.
Mega-Adjustable Luxury Headrests
Office chair headrests rarely match up to a good gaming chair one. Most office types are padded plastic units that you can adjust up or at an angle. It’s hard to find a good angle in these. But even when you do, hard plastic jamming into your neck doesn’t feel great.
The big downside with gaming chair headrests is that a lot of them don’t fit! For instance, if using a chair too tall for you, the headrest won’t side down far enough.
Secretlab obliterated the headrest limitation. Its new magnetic headrest removes the need for straps. That delivers a whopping 11″ adjustment range.
As a bonus, the memory foam pillow is next-level. It’s lined with a cooling gel insert to moderate temperatures. It also has an aggressive upper curve that provides better support for the base of the head.
Not to be outdone, DXRacer recently released its own mega-adjustable headrest. Its new Craft Series chair has a memory foam pillow on straps.
The straps attach to elastic loops on the top of both chair shoulders. You can push the loops up to position the pillow higher. Loop them down and the pillow can hit the middle of the backrest!
Modular Mesh Seat
One of the complaints that office chair purists have about gaming chairs is the lack of mesh. Indeed, bundled under a thick slab of foam, gaming chairs seats allow much less airflow.
In mid-2020, DXRacer unveiled a simple solution to this problem: modular gaming chairs. ‘Modular’ means you can swap different parts.
For instance, if you’re getting too hot in a Master Series chair, pop out the padded seat and pop in the mesh one. Learn more:
Modular Device Holder
One of the most pressing ergonomic needs in a perpetual computing environment is multi-device support. To that end, DXRacer’s modular extras include a device holder.
Beyond multi-device support, this also opens up the possibility for a deskless work environment! Positioned with the right angles, this lets the chair support your spine.
At the same time, the armrests support your elbows. Concurrently, the laptop works as intended by supporting the weight of your wrists. Learn more about DXRacer’s modular extras:
Sync-Tilt And Seat Slider
Synchronous tilt is the star feature of the most expensive ergonomic office chairs. This tilts the seat in sync with a backrest recline. The Herman Miller Aeron has the most robust version of this feature.
When you recline, the seat tilts up. When you lean forward, it tilts down. Beyond sync-tilt, many high-end ergo office chairs also have a seat slider. This lets you adjust the depth of the seat to suit taller or shorter legs.
German Sync-Tilt Gaming Chair Integration
Germany deserves the nod for porting sync-tilt and seat slider functions into gaming chairs. In 2019, exotic car seat pioneer RECARO quietly released its own entries into the gaming chair market. Then, the RECARO Rae became the world’s first gaming chair with synchronous-tilt functionality.
Earlier this year, another German brand furthered RECARO’s idea. The Noblechairs Epic Compact gaming chair adds sync-tilt and a seat slider.
Relevance: the gaming chair industry is built on copies of other ideas. Now that these features have been integrated into two gaming chairs, they can be ported into all.
Magnetic Armrest Caps
Secretlab’s recent Titan Evo 2022 release packed in tons of groundbreaking new features. Among them: CloudSwap armrests. This system has replaceable caps held in place with magnets.
Recently, Anda Seat ‘borrowed’ this feature for its new Kaiser 3 Series luxury chair. That leads to the next groundbreaking innovation…
Deskless Computing Lapboard
Anda Seat’s flagship Kaiser 3 Series Series was recently released. It copies every Titan 2022 Series feature: 4-way lumbar, magnetic headrest, and magnetic arm caps.
The Anda team added their own flair with a cool new use for magnetic armrests. This plastic tabletop takes seconds to snap in. There’s a mobile device holder and plenty of space for a laptop/ keyboard and mouse.
It’s a great start, with clear downsides. Using it with a mobile device or laptop will force a craned neck. That slumps the back, negating the point of an ergonomic chair.
Relevance: New Ergonomic Standards
The gaming chair industry has been around since 2006. For most of its 16-year history, there was very little innovation. Most new chairs on the market simply copied the original DXRacer design.
In sharp contrast, this article lists 7 major innovations — all from the past 12 months! These arrive in sync with new institutional-level ergonomic design priorities.
The 5th edition of the Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics documents standards in workplace environment design. Released in 2021, it makes desk worker back support secondary to two tech-related issues.
First, a state of multi-device perpetual computing is emerging. In that new reality, multi-device ergonomic support is urgently needed.
Second, severe technostress is inevitable in a perpetual computing environment. To avoid data burnout, info-era workers need more output screens with more placement options.
The good news is that with recent gaming chair innovations, the tech already exists for perpetual, multi-device (and deskless) computing! Check out this prototype cobbled together from recent gaming chair innovations:
- Weiser, M. ‘The computer for the 21st century.’ Scientific American, 265(3), 94–105, 14 June, 2012. https://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/Weiser-Computer21stCentury-SciAm.pdf (accessed 2 March 2022).
- Edited by Gavriel Salvendy. ‘Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics’. John Wiley & Sons, Aug 24, 2021. https://www.worldcat.org/title/handbook-of-human-factors-and-ergonomics/oclc/35986430 (accessed 2 March 2022).
- Henry Gray. ‘Anatomy of the Human Body’, 3b. The Vertebral Column as a Whole, Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1918; Bartleby.com, 2000. https://www.bartleby.com/107/25.html, (accessed 13 March 2022).