Product idea: using technology to help with at-home-workouts (yoga)

Lots of us novices have been practising yoga at home during lockdown. It’s been a fun way of getting some exercise without the pressure associated with attending live classes with people who can bend, stretch and contort themselves into crazy unfathomable positions.

The problem

As a novice, it’s hard to know if you are doing it right. They say it’s not about how you look, and everyone’s bodies are different, but you (I) often can’t help but wonder how on earth other people bend their bodies the way they do when your body moves like a sack of potatoes. Or is that just me? maybe.

With practice, we get better, but it’s hard to know if you are practising incorrectly or doing it wrong. Also, ensuring you are properly aligned when you get into various positions without a yogi checking in on you in your living room, correcting our postures and form is difficult.

Having been at home for a few months now, we might learn and practise things incorrectly, which will be harder to unlearn if/when we end up in a live class when lockdown ends. Worse still, we could injure ourselves.

There is, of course, the option of a video session with the camera on, but then again, we might not be ready to allow someone into our home virtually, let alone the rest of the yoga class attendees.

I’ve found some yoga instructors, such as Fi from flyLdn are great at knowing what people might be getting wrong and offering corrective advice without being able to see you. It feels like she is talking directly to me when she says, “raise X”, “make sure Y isn’t doing Z”, instead of talking into the void of several hundred people tuned into the class. It’s been great! But we could take it a step further…

It’s an idea that’s been whirring in my head for a while now; I’ve just not found the right team to try and turn it into a reality (hint, hint).

Some examples of correct and incorrect form…

Correct and incorrect yoga pose for half forward fold yoga pose
Incorrect and correct yoga pose for yoga low lunge
Incorrect and correct alignment of Sunbird yoga pose

Now, as I mentioned, if you were in a live class, a yoga instructor would be able to correct you. However, at home, this isn’t so easy.

Many people may not have wanted to attend a live class for various reasons, but they have the confidence, time and patience to practice at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Possible solutions

I don’t know the intricacies of how it could work, but it would require a screen/tv and a sensor and feedback when you are in the wrong position.

Initially, I thought of some stickers on your joints before practice that the sensors can pick up.

Wearables research has investigated where on the body would need to be tracked to sense movement.

©Clint Zeagler-Movement Sensor Placement Body Map [64].

Or a special suit…

However, it seems a bit overkill and probably wouldn’t be that comfortable. Also, there appears to be new technology out there, which means people wouldn’t need to wear a special suit.

My initial thought was to use something like the Microsoft Xbox Kinect, but the Kinect was discontinued in 2017.

The internet led me to the Asus Xtion Whole Body Action Motion Sensor with the manufacturer description of:

The ASUS Xtion motion sensor brings consumers the first ever whole-body gesture input developed exclusively for PC. It employs sophisticated sensors for precise yet intuitive motion controls, with a user-friendly interface that enables fun and truly interactive gaming, multimedia, and online experiences. 

Description on Amazon

However, reviews say:

Cons: In two environments the XTion performance differed dramatically. In a bright room with fluorescent lights the XTion is difficult to activate and hard to manipulate, especially on XP (although granted the test machine was dated) where the program had a bunch of us waving our hands around like eegits trying to reactivate the motion detection which was deactivating indiscriminately.

On a newer machine the user interface seemed to be more reactive but still the range of use is somewhat limited (just basically a point and click mouse that looks like a hand) with drag, move and click being the only functionality.

Amazon Review – Jonathan

Not working in a bright room with fluorescent lights could be the kicker for the concept, as it would be hard to control the ambient light in a person’s home. In addition, there may be objects, other people or animals around which could interfere with the sensors.

Further digging on the internet led me to Tempo – ‘an AI-powered home gym.’

The Tempo is geared more towards weight-based workouts or HIIT sessions.

I feel it would be pretty intrusive in your space, particularly if you live in the UK, where living space is a premium. I, for one, wouldn’t have the space for the setup or the desire for a semi-permanent (stylish) gym in my living room.

So all in all it feels like there can be an opportunity for the solution I’ve half fleshed out. Now to do more research to see if there is anything like it already available and what would be needed to make it a reality.

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