Can a nearly $300 yoga mat help improve your downward dog? A tech startup is saying yes, it can.
SmartMat, a tech-infused yoga mat developed by three entrepreneurs, is raising thousands of dollars by claiming to be the world’s first mat that can help users achieve that perfect pose with audio and visual cues sent via a smartphone, or tablet.
Here’s how it works: The SmartMat has a layer of thin pressure sensors embedded within a traditional yoga mat — sensors that link with a smartphone or tablet to provide vocal feedback about your poses. The mat will work best if users input some basic details, such as gender, height and weight, as well as arm span measurements and other details that can help the mat get a better sense of the yogi’s body type. SmartMat’s founders claim the mat can be used effectively by both enthusiastic yogis and beginners.
“It isn’t just a matter of plotting points on the mat and saying ‘This is where your feet go for downward dog,’ we are actually in the process of creating a learning engine,” co-founder Neyma Jahan told Fortune. “It learns about the user and tailors its practice to the needs of that user.”
Jahan said the SmartMat won’t replace teachers, but it can help improve the yoga practice.
“Tracking your fitness is part of the equation, having intuitive coaches can never be replaced with the computer and a person’s own drive,” Jahan said. “SmartMat is adding a tool to the tool belt.”
The fancy yoga mat would cost a consumer $297 if they back the Indiegogo campaign today, a price that could increase to as high as $447 as more orders come in. Launched in late September, SmartMat has already raised over $187,000, more than the stated $110,000 goal. The campaign on the crowdfunding website, which has already courted over 700 funders, ends on Oct. 30. SmartMat is hoping to ship the mats in July 2015.
SmartMat’s price is far higher than that of a traditional yoga mat. Yoga mats generally retail for under $40, and even premium-priced mats sold by Lululemon retail for less than $100.
But the SmartMat is a bet that tech-loving athletes are willing to open their wallets for the latest athletic-focused gadget. More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, with millions more involved in the practice internationally, so there are already a lot of consumers that participate in the activity. And athletes are known to embrace fancy and often pricey tech gadgets to enhance their technique and improve their performance — devices such as GPS-enabled watches, and mobile apps such as Nike+ to track their progress and keep tabs on how well they are performing.
The SmartMat isn’t just generating interest in the media, retailers are also hoping to get on board.
“Everybody you can think of has already contacted us,” Jahan said. “Everyone except Apple.”
Jahan founded SmartMat with Sam Marks, who previously worked at an e-cigarette company that was acquired by Lorillard, and former Yahoo executive Maziar Sadri. The entrepreneurs are hopeful the mat is the first of many fitness-focused advancements they hope to bring to market.
“The ultimate goal for our company is to go and create a personalized fitness experience,” Jahan said. “We are measuring output and helping [people] make incremental improvements in their performance.”
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