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National Runner Up


It's more than a yoga mat.

  • Grounded, a project by Arpana Murugappan under the mentorship of Professor Frederic Gmeiner.

  • Quick facts about Grounded

  • Interaction System Overview

  • A simplified glimpse of the design journey. A detailed look can be found at the project website.

  • Behind the scenes

What it does

Grounded is an interactive yoga mat that integrates wellness unobtrusively and helps develop sustainable habits that take care of your mental and physical wellbeing. In a world that is increasingly competitive and pushes limits, it is an anchor we all need.

Your inspiration

Like the American surgeon Halstead who invented rubber gloves for his nurse wife so her hands wouldn't be chapped from surgery, I, too, love to the point of invention. A few months ago, my father was going through a particularly busy time and worked extremely long hours. Soon, stress-related health problems started to surface. He wanted to go for yoga classes but he could spare no time and was too shy. So, when assigned to design a smart surface, I designed this mat to alleviate his suffering. I wanted him to have a way he could stay indoors and still stay healthy and connected – a problem all of us face in these pandemic times.

How it works

Grounded is a solar powered mat that is a part of your home; a part of your daily routine. It's always out and doubles as decor. The dormant mat flutters awake the first time you step across it in the day by lighting up its petals to wish you a good morning. It is like a baby animal that can communicate only in the most stunted way. It's simplicity is a refuge from the barrage of interfaces we are subjected to daily. The mat activates when the central flower is stepped on for an extended time. The outlines of petals light up prompting you to choose the length of the session. After a breathing induction, petals and pathways light up to guide you into the right positions much like a game of Twister. Alongside ambient sounds, it is an immersive meditative experience. When it is time to end the session, all the petals light up. They must be turned off one by one to say goodbye. The ritual is equivalent to the sense of control cleaning your room gives you.

Design process

As the detailed flowchart in my gallery, the design process was multi-layered and rigorous. It was an iterative process that skipped back and forth between phases and relied heavily on rapid prototyping. The design process flowed through and in-between problem, research, ideation/desgin, prototyping, testing/refining, and review. The full flow of the design process is illustrated in the image submitted.

How it is different

Grounded is rare in the market, close to unique. Unlike regular yoga mats, its shape is optimized for the range of motion the human body requires to perform yoga. It integrates seamlessly into your routine and brings yoga back to spending time with yourself rather than the alternative: being too conscious of your admittedly foolish attempts at Downward Dog in a room of sweating strangers to focus on what yoga is about – breathing, body, self. The mat delivers an immersive experience like no other and because of its permanent position at home, creates a subconscious anchor/cornerstone habit that will seep into the rest of your life. There is no limit to the potential of this project. Mats could be synced so people who are long distance can stay connected. Much like a pet dog, the mat could alert to intruders. There are numerous narratives waiting to be uncovered and any one of them could spin-off into a product of its own.

Future plans

To develop a fully functional prototype mat with all the tech embedded into the fabric. I hope to experiment with that prototype and refine the project till I'm satisfied. More than reaching a marketable stage though, I place higher value in the information that will be uncovered during the development process, and its broader meaning and applications. I'm most excited about answering questions like: To what extent do people bond with the mat? Why? Does it offer them more comfort, less? What new narratives will emerge from this unique interaction? Will my hypotheses about the functioning of the mind prove true? What principles emerge? etc.


Highly Commended (Top 10%) in the Architecture & Design category in The Global Undergraduate Awards 2019 Programme.

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