Why We Built SmartMat
As entrepreneurs and visionaries, when we look at ideas and consider them for development, the most common reason to consider a project is “That is cool and I can build that.” Unfortunately just the fact that something is cool and within reason to develop, does not mean it can be a raving success.
The “2nd tier” reason for building a project is the vision that if I build this “people will want it” – This also does not guarantee success, first of course you need to build it, but then you are stuck with a product that people may want, or they may not want and even worse, you have to spend all of your time trying to convince them that they want it.
Now there is an open secret among “successful” entrepreneurs, ie.. the ones that do very well. We do not take on projects, “just because its cool and we can built it” or because “people will want that” Rather we use a very black and white criteria that seems so simplified and basic, that it actually works 100% of the time.
We just ask ourselves “is this concept inevitable” If the answer is yes then we build it (other criteria needs to line of including being top to market, product feasibility and sizable target market.)
So as we have shuffled though various concepts the one that kept coming back as inevitable (whether we built it or not) was the concept of a Responsive Yoga Mat. Looking at current pace of technological innovation, let us look 20 years into the future (smartmat or no smartmat) and it is quite obvious that some people will be receiving dynamic instruction from “the machine” for their yoga practice. We know this because of the trend of the singularity and rapid growth of the health tech mega-industry
While there will never be a “replacement” for human intuition and instruction, what SmartMat offers can be considered a complement. A computerized brain will never be able to accurately read the thousands of elements a trained yoga teacher can decipher just by looking at the student for a moment, however at the same time a human will never be able to read the micro points of balance and equilibrium required to achieve a “Perfect Pose” based on the specific measurements of the practitioners body.
There is a trade off, it will never be one or the other, though some will naturally gravitate to one side of the fence depending on their individual temperaments.
Besides the fact that it is inevitable, awesome and we can build it, the “reason” we built SmartMat is that it fills a very obvious gap in the market. in the “Before SmartMat” era, if people wanted to practice yoga they have the following options
1 – go to a large group class. (20+ people) Being an introvert I never liked these that much, if I am going to get out of the house for group exercise, I am going for the personal attention of the teacher (which doesn’t happen much just because of bandwidth of the teacher) , not just to be around other people doing the same thing and essentially doing a “group video”
2 – go to a smaller public class (20 people max, most likely less) This is how I learned yoga and how I choose to practice often. in a smaller setting a teacher is able to devote individual attention to the students, making corrections and encouragement according to each students level of practice
3 – Private Lesson – Sounds great in theory, but is not financially feasible for most people on an ongoing basis. And besides who wants a teacher showing up at our house at 6am for a 25 minute morning vinyasa flow. Somethings are best done privately.
4 – Practice at home with a Video – I consider this more or less the same as a large group class, however its in my home and i am not dodging getting kicked in the face
5 – Personal flow. Honestly it took me a few years of semi regular small group classes in order to achieve the knowledge and discipline to practice without explicit and constant instruction. I sorta developed my own flow that I go though that takes me about 25 minutes in the morning to get me started for my day. It is not an end-all there is room for classes as well, but this is my daily rock.
So as you can see, in these five modes of practice (please forgive me if I forgot something, but this more or less covers the basis) each has its advantages but also has noticeable gaps
Private lessons are ideal, but not practical on a long term basis for most, practicing at home is convenient but sometimes you require instruction. Some people love large group classes but require some individual feedback that is not available in crowded setting.
SO this is why we built SmartMat. SmartMat is a yoga mat with built in sensors and apparatuses that connects to your smartdevice (phone, tablet) to give you realtime feedback on your practice. Offering Adjustments on Balance, Alignment and of course other important aspects of your practice such as breath work. Your SmartDevice will display a real time “heatmap” of your foot and hand placement, giving you visual and audio ques for adjustments.
SmartMat specifically works in a few distinct modes
In-Home Private - Think of this as a private yoga lesson in your home. The “teacher” calls out the poses and movements while SmartMat reads the students movements. The program dynamically shifts to meet the needs of the student and SmartMat grows and learns more about you over time, adapting itself to your body and the evolution of your practice.
In-Class Assist - This is usually done in “silent” mode to not disturb those around you. You can bring SmartMat to a public class (or do your own flow at home) and place your phone in front of you to receive real time adjustments on your practice. This also records a journal of your poses and practice for posterity and tracking your achievements. In the future, there will be “SmartClasses” where the teacher has a controller app and be able to monitor the progress of all of the students, fusing the precision of technology with the vastness of human perception and intuition .
Perfect Pose – This is a very clinical “yin” mode of practice where you and SmartMat will select one pose (at a time) and do deep practice on that pose, perfecting placement, balance and breath. The idea is that you learn the intricacies of the poses within Perfect Pose mode and take that mastery into your daily flow.
So when you think about SmartMat, watch the demonstration and imagine in your mind the possibility, you also are like “yes, that is inevitable” in the future (well the future is here) people will be received intelligent and safe Asana instruction from their mat. This is just where it is going.
Is everybody going to love it? Will everybody embrace it? No way. There will be yoga “purists” who reject all things technology (your iphone too?) In our research and discussions we have spoken to both novices and advanced yogi;s who are utterly convinced that there is no way an intelligent device can accurately guide a yoga practice and are very concerned about accuracy and precision.
On the contrary we have spoken to both novice and advanced yogi;s who are converts and already integrating the technology with their practice. It is basically impossible for me to convince you either way just with words on a page, so I ask you to enter into the concept of SmartMat with an open mind and just be available to the concept. The Proof will be in the pudding and you will be able to judge yourself. Sometimes the most powerful things arise where you least except them.
Thank you for taking the time to read.