The aptly named Product Design Studio of Japan has improved on an old piece of design, namely the hand loop grasped by straphangers on public transit.
The classic handle for someone standing on the bus, streetcar, or subway was a loop of plastic hanging from a bar overhead. This solution helps to prevent people from being knocked over by jolts experienced during normal operation but is not very comfortable to hold onto.
Bars and poles come more easily to hand but present another difficulty, namely awkward hand touching. Unless you are deliberately flirting, inadvertent hand touching with a stranger in public can be embarrassing or perhaps worse.
Product Design Studio has designed a ring to ease the grip issue while allowing users to maintain their own hand space. The ring is oval in design to allow for comfortable gripping while leaving room for two hands separately. Padding above the ring allows for a third grasp.
(Courtesy of Product Design Centre.)
We use the term social technostress to capture situations where designs place people in situations that may be socially awkward, embarrassing, etc. In public transit, where many people may have to interact in close quarters, social technostress can become an important issue for good design.
This issue is particularly important in more collective cultures, such as in Japan, where sensitivity to embarrassment may be more acute.