Forget standing desks and treadmill desks and even bike-powered desks. Here's the newest way to fight sitting disease at work: A hamster wheel for humans.
"I think the standing desk was the first shot fired in the battle against office rot, and the second was the treadmill desk," says designer Robb Godshaw, who created the Hamster Wheel Standing Desk with fellow maker Will Doenlen. "But a treadmill gives you a fixed setting and it's a distracting thing."
A hamster wheel, they realized, might have advantages for non-rodents. It allows someone to walk at whatever speed they want, it would look more like an interesting piece of furniture than exercise equipment, and once it gets going, it naturally encourages someone to keep working out.
Without a desk inside, the wheel can actually go a little too fast—in some early tests, the designers' friends accidentally flew out and fell down. But a desk brings the wheel under control. "Once the desk is inside of it it's much easier to control because you have something to hold onto and something to stop with," says Godshaw. "I think future versions might include some type of brake."
Future versions might also use the motion of the wheel to generate electricity to power phones or even laptops, much like this cycling desk. "That would actually be a clever way of solving the speed problem because the way a generator works—the more load you put on a generator, the more difficult it is to turn," Godshaw explains. "For example, if you had a lightbulb on a dimmer, you'd be able to choose how difficult it was based on the brightness of that dimmer."
The pair of designers hacked together the desk in one 24-hour design and build session, and then put a DIY guide on Instructables for anyone who wants to build their own. Since both have full-time jobs, they have no plans to manufacture it themselves. "I'm interested in seeing where the community will take it," Godshaw says.
Despite the inevitable jokes about the desk as a metaphor for our lives in the rat race, the design might have real value—at the very least, it looks more fun than just running on a treadmill. And it's obvious there's a demand for different ways to work.
"The treadmill desk has kind of become something of a fixture in Bay Area offices," Godshaw says. "There's a concern among people who spend all of their time staring at white rectangles of various sizes that our health is deteriorating as a result of this somewhat unnatural condition they find themselves in...this is one solution. I think the design of the hamster wheel is a good one, and I'm surprised it hasn't been used for human things more frequently."