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Tag: coffeeshop

Prism glasses will improve your posture! Never hunch over your laptop like some kind of Quasimodo again!


Since laptops are so convenient and portable, many people work in locations that are not set up for long-term ergonomic comfort (for example, dining room tables or coffeeshop counters, e.g. Figure 1).


Fig. 1: A setup like this is a common work environment, despite its presumably questionable OSHA rating.

The issue:

Since these locations were never designed for laptop use, they are typically set up in such a way that the laptop keyboard and screen are way too low, and you often see people hunching over their laptops in ridiculous fashion (Figure 2).



Fig. 2: This highly dubious pose is the common reality of laptop use in non-optimal situations, and is, additionally, an affront to the human form. People tend to blame themselves for having “bad posture,” but really it’s an inescapable element of such a work environment.

Ideally, people imagine that they would sit up straight, as shown in Figure 3. But that is incompatible with the position of the computer screen.


Fig. 3: This “ideal posture” scenario is totally unrealistic given the position of the laptop. The user will inevitably return to the situation shown in Figure 2.


Luckily, the fix is simple: a modified version of belay glasses, a type of prism glasses used in rock climbing that were allow wearers to look up without craning their necks.

Except in this case, the prism glasses will look down at the laptop screen, rather than up, as illustrated in Figure 4.




Fig. 4: These “prism glasses” (in this case, actually a giant prism attached to a hat) are  suspended in such a way that the user is able to look directly at the prism, yet see the laptop screen below. The prism would presumably not actually be purple, although technically that would be an option.


Since prism-based belaying glasses already exist (surprisingly, only commercially available after 2007!), laptop prism glasses are probably not totally infeasible.

It would also be possible to use a VR headset to set up something like this, but at that point you might as well just set up a proper work space.

PROS: Improve your posture!

CONS: The “sweet spot” for seeing the screen is probably extremely narrow, so any movement of the wearer’s head may move the laptop screen out of the user’s view. Additionally, even the slightest imperfections in the prism would probably make text very difficult to read.

Easily determine whether you can get a seat at a trendy coffee shop, even when it’s completely packed with people using laptops! All thanks to the “this seat is free” sign.


Do you own a crowded coffee shop? No? Well, you should remedy that, and then read on!

The issue:

In large cities, coffee shops are often entirely occupied by people doing work on their laptops.

Coffee shops have come up with various strategies for dealing with the pros and cons of being a low-cost “co-working space,” but it’s often a problem for people who just want to sit down: a laptop-using individual with an external mouse and some notes can easily occupy an entire four-seat table, while only using one chair and ~50–75% of the actual table area.

There’s enough remaining room for two additional people to have coffee at that table without impacting the laptop user!


The easy solution is to have a set of “this seat / this part of the table is open, please feel free to use it!” signs at the front of the cafe (Figure 1).

A patron who only anticipates using 50% of a table could take one of these signs and put it on the unused section of their table (even if there isn’t room for a second laptop).



Fig. 1: If you are using only part of a table (and don’t mind if someone uses the rest of the table), you can put a “THIS SEAT IS OPEN” sign on the other side of the table.


This would be really cheap to implement and doesn’t really have any downsides.

One objection is: “couldn’t patrons also accomplish this by asking if the laptop-user minds if they sit down?” Answer: yes, but that is irrelevant from the cafe owner’s perspective, since people tend to assume a no-tables-remaining cafe is FULL. Even if they “should” have just asked around, it still results in lost business for the cafe owner.

PROS: Could increase the effective number of seats in a cafe without requiring more space or furniture.

CONS: Maybe weirdos would use these signs as a way to try to lure other coffeeshop patrons into sharing a table with them, so they could then subject them to annoying and unwanted conversation.

You’ll never believe this weird trick for getting a table from a laptop user at a coffeeshop! Why wouldn’t you believe it? Well, it’s because of your excessively skeptical nature.


If you go into a coffeeshop in a major city, there is a good chance that you will find it entirely colonized by patrons with laptops who use the shop as a “home office.”

Even if you wait for half an hour, you might never get a table. Woe!

Previously, this issue could be mitigated by either:

  • Not providing WiFi, which is now obsolete due to phone tethering and/or built-in cell radios in laptops.


  • Restricting access to wall outlets (which worked very well in the era of 3-hour laptop batteries). But improved battery technology has rendered this approach ineffective as well.


Fig 1: This laptop has unavoidably occupied an entire coffeeshop table.


It is difficult to politely kick out a customer.

So we turn to a technical solution to discourage long-term laptop use: harsh overhead lighting.

Specifically, we propose strategically arranged spotlights (Fig. 2) that will be generally acceptable but will cause unbearable screen glare when reflecting off a laptop screen.


Fig 2: The array of ceiling lights (blue) is calculated to cause maximum laptop glare at all screen angles.


Fig 3: At left, we can see the reflecting lights in the (turned off) laptop screen. At right, note how the glare makes the computer unusable (compare to the laptop screen in Fig. 1).


If you own a coffeeshop and hate your customers, you should give this plan a shot!

PROS: Increases patron turnover and discourages long-term occupancy of tables.

CONS: It is possible that the substantial fraction of a coffeeshop’s patrons only go there to use their laptops, so cutting off this revenue may deal a fatal blow to the shop’s profitability.