MIT Students Created a Light Up Yoga Mat
What happens when MIT creates a yoga mat? You get what is possibly the coolest mat on the planet.
Meet the “Glow,” an interactive mat that uses LED lights and automated instructions to help you learn yoga, or improve upon your current training.
The idea was conceived in a brainstorming meeting for MIT’s 2.009, a class called, Product Engineering Processes, which is the capstone project class for mechanical engineering seniors at MIT. Teams are made up of 15 to 19 students (mainly mechanical engineers but a few from other fields such as electrical engineering and architecture). Students are tasked with designing and building an alpha prototype related to a specific theme. This year’s theme was “Be Well.”
“The class improves skills of idea generation, working with and designing for users, building and testing conceptual prototypes, and presenting ideas and products,” says Julia Ellermeier, a student in the class and one of the creators of Glow. “Teams are given a set of mentors who are professionals in the field and help with everything along the way.”
While brainstorming for their project, the team came to the subject of yoga, and realized that yoga mats could use some new features. So the team created Glow, an interactive yoga mat that provides visual and audio instructions and feedback to the user. The mat is hooked up to a user’s computer and can be customized to the user’s specific body proportions which allows for a more personalized yoga experience.
Yogis can choose to learn poses in sequences, just like a regular yoga class, or they can also choose to learn individual poses at their own pace, Ellermeier says. “[Users] watch a video of a trained yoga instructor on their computer, while LEDs in the mat light up to show them exactly where to put their hands and feet,” she says. At the same time, pressure sensors monitor weight distribution across the mat. The system uses this data to give real time feedback to the user by changing the colors of the LEDs lit up across the mat.”
The different colors signal the user to shift their weight accordingly in order to align correctly in each pose. When you’re all done with your yoga session, the data is stored so it can be viewed and tracked to measure progress over time.
“What’s unique about Glow is that it gives the user the ability to have a personalized yoga experience without having to pay for expensive private yoga sessions,” Ellermeier says. “They are also able to use Glow in the comfort of their own home and thus don’t have to go to a yoga studio if they’re worried about their skill level or don’t have time to commit to a class.”
Glow uses an array of LED lights and pressure sensors that are connected to a microcontroller in a housing unit at the top of the mat (see detailed graphic below). The electronics are embedded in a layer of silicone that is sandwiched between the top and bottom of the yoga mat, both of which are made of the same foam material that a traditional yoga mat is made of, Ellermeier says. “The LEDs are programmed to light up depending on the pose and the height of the user and memory is stored both in the microcontroller and the user’s computer,” she says. “The pressure mats then measure the pressure distribution of the user on the mat and are able to relay information and compare with data from expert yoga instructors. If the user’s pressure distribution doesn’t match up with what it should be, then the user will be alerted by the LED’s changing color.”
So basically, this is the coolest yoga mat, ever. Right now, there’s only one prototype. Will consumers ever be able to get their hands on one?
“We are currently filing for a patent for the technology and have received a lot of really good feedback from initial users. Many reviewers came to us after our presentation saying that they would love if Glow became a real product and that they would be interested in testing or even purchasing the mat if it were available,” Ellenmeier says. “We know that a lot of people would absolutely love if one day Glow were in homes around the country.”