Pretty much all massage chairs nowadays comes with some sort of a body scanning feature. In short, body scanning is a technology that allows the chair to scan your body size to make sure that the chair and it's rollers fit your spine and hit the important areas of your back.
I have always told customers that body scanning, in a nutshell, is the chair rollers trying to figure out where the base of your skull and the top of your shoulders are located. To that end, it is always important for you, as a customer, to sit back all the way, with your head resting against the chair, so that the rollers can find the head and shoulders. If that isn't done, then the rollers will think that the top of your shoulders is the skull and the rollers will never actually get to the top of the spine and fully massage your neck.
(Some chairs will also scan your leg lengths electronically so that you don't have to adjust the foot and calf massager to fit your legs. Others have a spring-loaded ottoman or buttons on the remote control to electronically lengthen or shorten the foot and calf massagers to accommodate your leg length.)
Having said that, I did a little research with each of the massage chair companies (that would get back to me), to find out what their chairs actually did to constitute "body scanning". I found out that the head and shoulder thing I was teaching my customers about was only part of it. Here is what I learned:
Their chairs have a pressure pad that, when hit by the rollers, helps the chair determine the location of the skull, shoulders, mid back and low back, thus allowing the chair's rollers to adjust to those body parts.
These chairs have a very elaborate scanning technology wherein the rollers give pressure feedback as they travel up and down the spine. The pressure feedback is provided at a rate of 100 times/second, creating a "pressure map" of your whole spine. This map is created as the chair records the pressure readings all the way up and down the spine, not only at the beginning of the massage session, but throughout the whole session. Your muscle tone will change as the massage session progresses, so it makes absolute sense to monitor the pressure changes that accompany the change in muscle tone during your massage.
The folks at Ogawa were very helpful in providing very specific body scan information for each of their models. Here is what they shared with me:
Master Drive AI
This chair has a scan that utilizes a duel processing microchip built into the massage robotic so it has its own dedicated brushless motor as well as processor. The Brushless motor is able to operate faster, with more accuracy, more efficiency, and with multidimensional coordination (think of a 3 dimensions grid). This type of motor is typically only used for large scale industries like aircraft, medical equipment, and electric vehicles.
This advanced scan also allows the chair to pick up acupressure points, and pain points with a very high accuracy, and is a major component in our chair doctor feature. This chair not only creates a 3d map, but also a biometric screening used to prescribe a massage through the chair doctor feature.
Here is a cool video showing the scan feature in case you haven’t seen it - https://www.youtube.com/
This chair has japanese style, two head roller with a double body scan technology. This is similar to scan found in the newest Panasonics chairs and allows for the roller to perform with a high degree of accuracy. The digital and weight sensitive scan will map the users back recognizing size, shape, shoulder, and neck location.
The Active L Plus will locate the body's position, digitally mapping your size, and providing the data back to the chair ensures precise placement in the shoulders and nape of the neck.
Here is a cool video of this chair here - https://www.youtube.com/
Luraco also boasts some very advanced body scan technology in their massage chair models, the Legend Plus and the iRobotics 7 Plus. Here is what they shared with me for this article:
Luraco massage chairs are designed with sophisticated and the most-current body scan technology that precisely detects the backbone curvature of each different user.
During the body scan process, there are several sensors which include pressure sensors, analog-to-digital conversions, and embedded software to record the scanning data when the 3D mechanism rolls along the user's back.
The data is then analyzed by a software algorithm to determine the body shape/contour and locate the shoulder and neck position as well as the leg-length detection (for proper ottoman placement for leg massages)
After the body scan is complete, the massage profile starts based on the data. With the end result being that the user will experience a precise and customized massage regardless of the user’s size and shape. This is why a returning user must wait a few seconds before going to any of the “saved” user functions. They have to give the chair a short period of time to start its scan analysis before overriding it (i.e. the chair doesn’t know who is sitting in it until it starts the scan function).
As you know most other chairs on the market just detect the user’s shoulder position. Luraco chairs go above-and-beyond that simple function.
Infinity said that their chairs are really just looking for the top of the shoulders to determine when to reverse back down the roller track. The locating of the shoulders can happen 3 ways: an optical sensor, magnets, and a power sensor. The 1st two are looking for the top rollers to extend over the top of the shoulders. When this happens the optical sensor reads it or the magnets draw close enough to each other to register. Power sensing measures the strain on the motor. As the rollers reach the top, the load eases to register the arrival to the top of the shoulders. These systems work well when properly engineered. The problem is many factories do not have this engineering precision so that it doesn't work accurately most of the time. Poor engineering of the body scan leads to poor assessment of the shoulder location.
This is an area where our factories (Johnson and Fuji) vary greatly from any others within the industry.
Most chairs have varying levels of the same scan. The standard scan is a vertical measurement scan, measuring from top to bottom and mapping against existing profiles. The precision and number of possible profiles may vary by brand. The Fuji and Johnson chairs have an entirely 2nd level to our scan beyond the standard vertical scan. We still measure the vertical measurements, but also measure the depth of the back. Merging that data with the vertical scan data provides our scan results. This results in a higher possible number of outcomes than is possible on any vertical scan alone. This second layer of scanning that we do is industry-leading and was pioneered by Fujiiryoki Japan, who currently still holds the most accurate body scan possible.
Imagine how many body scan combinations are available just with the vertical scan data. Now add an additional variable for multiple levels of depth at each of those points of measurement. The possible combos on a Fuji made chair is many times past what any other vendor is capable of. A chair where you can really experience a good body scan is the Synca JP1100 which is made by Fujiiryoki Japan and distributed under our Synca brand.
The above is talking about back massage body scans only, there are some chairs on the market that have PSI sensors and other data points they gather but that’s a secondary massage features compared to the core back massage scan.
Well, there you have it. My extremely over-simplified "base of skull and top of shoulders" customer explanation doesn't come anywhere close to what is really going on under the upholstery. Fascinating stuff that impresses me even more about the technical capacity of these amazing massage chairs.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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