Yoga is definitely one of those activities where it really helps to have someone coaching you through it. That's why people go to group classes, although they usually can't be in a class every time they want to do yoga. Well, that's where the SmartMat is designed to come in. It's a pressure sensor-equipped yoga mat that communicates with the user's mobile device via Bluetooth, to guide them through their sequences.
When you first get the SmartMat (not to be confused with the, uh ... SmartMat), you start by calibrating it. This involves entering information such as your age, height, gender and weight on the accompanying iOS/Android app. You also lie down on the mat itself, so its sensors can obtain length measurements of your arms, legs and torso.
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The app then guides you through a series of basic poses, noting the positioning and pressure index of your hands and feet as you do them. It uses these readings as a baseline, so that it will subsequently know what's normal for you. As you become stronger and more flexible over time, however, it will automatically update that baseline accordingly.
You can then download classes of your choice from the online SmartMat Marketplace. These will guide you through various sequences, using both verbal and onscreen visual cues. If your positioning/balance is off, the app will instruct you as to how to correct it.
Although it may be hard to picture how the mat would be able to tell what your arms were doing when in a standing pose, the designers state that it can tell a lot based on how the weight is distributed in your feet – if your arms were extended in front of you, for instance, the foot-pressure map would be different than if they were over your head.
The mat can be rolled up for transport/storage, and has a detachable plastic ledge at the top that houses some of the electronics, and that also serves as a stand for your mobile device. It's additionally sweat-resistant, and its battery can be charged via USB – one charge should be good for about six hours of use.
The SmartMat is currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and has surpassed its funding goal. A pledge of US$297 will get you one, when and if they reach production. The planned retail price is $447. More information is available in the pitch video below.
Another "smart" yoga mat, the Beacon, is being featured on the Quirky product development site. It guides users via embedded LEDs.