By Joanna Stern
(NEW YORK) -- "Don't slouch!" "Sit up straight."
Ah, the sounds of a nagging mother bugging you to watch your posture. I used to hear those words quite often, and still do when I see my mother or when she sees a video of me. But for the times when she isn't around and I sit hunched over my laptop, there's a new gadget that I can pick up with her in mind.
Called the Lumoback, it's a belt that vibrates every time it senses that you are slouching. It also pairs with your phone to give you more information about your bad posture. The $150 gadget has two goals: to get you sitting better and standing up more. And it can certainly accomplish both of them, that is if you don't end up murdering it first.
The Lumoback is like a lot of the other fitness gadgets out there except for its small, albeit sometimes extremely annoying, vibrating trick. The small rectangular plastic piece on the back of the elastic and adjustable belt has a tri-axis accelerometer and Bluetooth radio inside.
The accelerometer does the job of sensing when your back isn't in an upright position, which then signals the device to vibrate gently to let you know you're slouching. Then the Bluetooth takes care of pairing with your iPhone to provide you with more information about your stance.
When you are in a slouched position, the belt vibrates twice -- first at four seconds, and if you don't right your position, again at 11 seconds. It will then leave you alone until it catches you slouching again. You can control the strength of the vibration through the app and also turn off the vibration all together, though that sort of defeats the point.
The Lumoback app, which is only available for the iPhone right now, though coming to Android soon, also guides you into finding that perfect sitting position. When you first set up the belt, you calibrate it by sitting and walking and marking your good posture positions. When connected, the app shows a small stick figure of you and your positioning -- whether you are sitting, standing, slouching backward, slouching forward. An orange stick figure indicates poor posture; a green stick figure indicates good posture.
For the most part, the app correctly depicts your position, or at least some of your positions. While it excels at letting you know that you are leaning backward, it isn't as accurate at picking up when you are leaning forward or when your shoulders are rolled over your body. Lumoback CEO Monisha Perkashtold told me that the company concentrated mostly on the lower back.
Still, the device is quite good at sensing when you aren't sitting in a good position, which for me is most of the time. And it also gives you more qualitative data about it too. Every day the software gives you a posture score (0 to 100) and then averages that out for the week and month. It also gives you data on how long you slouched for that day and plots that information on a graph. And like most fitness gadgets, it tracks your steps and sleep patterns.
Yet with all that, I ended up ripping the velcro belt off at least seven to eight times a day over the course of a week. Now, of course, that has to do with my poor posture, but the belt buzzes all the time, even if I adjust my body to what I consider OK posture. There's no forgiveness for sitting in a slightly better position.
It simply gets incredibly annoying after a while, especially if you've sat down to a meal (where wearing an elastic band already isn't comfortable), or if you are in the middle of an important article under deadline and don't want to have something around your waist shaking your body.
And yes, it buzzes when you sit on the toilet too.
The Lumoback works and works well. Sure, I'd like it to have an Android app, a battery life indicator, and I'd like to be able to adjust the vibration notifications to just buzz when in a very bad position. But the Lumoback does exactly what it is supposed to do: It reminds you to sit up straight and stand up more. It's done that more than five times in the time it took to write this review.
One or two times I heeded its vibrating signal and straightened up, but other times I ignored it. For those who are committed to improving their posture or have back problems, the Lumoback is likely to be a better fit. For $150, it's certainly worth a try and beats the cost of chiropractic and physical therapy bills.
I, on the other hand, am taking the thing off right now, because, naturally, I don't want to deprive my mom of her very important job.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio