Like many other yoga enthusiasts, Billie Whitehouse sometimes struggles with her form. "I never know if I’m doing it right," she says. "I always love it when the instructor comes and corrects my form." But yogis practicing alone in the comfort of their living room are left to figure it out for themselves. Whitehouse, the cofounder and CEO of technology company Wearable Experiments, realized she was in a unique position to bridge the gap. So she and her cofounder Ben Moir created Nadi, smart exercise tights that correct a wearer’s alignment using haptic feedback in the form of subtle vibrations.
From the outside, the Nadi tights don’t appear particularly high-tech. There are no wires or gadgets protruding from the fabric. But woven between the nylon layers are tiny electronics meant to sit on a wearer’s hips, knees, and ankles. These electronics communicate with one another to determine where the user’s body parts are in relation to one another. "It’s a wireless network for the body," Moir says. "We have a motion sensor in each part of the tights that knows exactly what angle you’re in."
Moir and Whitehouse consulted with yoga instructors to calibrate the sensors and the accompanying app with the correct body positions. Once the wearer settles into a pose, the sensors do a scan and report back. For example, if your hip is rotated too far inwards in warrior pose, a vibration will move across the hip in an outwards direction, like the guiding hands of a yoga instructor. When everything’s aligned, the tights give off a gentle "om" hum.
"The nice thing about haptics is you process them subconsciously," says Moir. "So if you’re in the flow of yoga, you don’t have to look at a screen and engage your attention on the screen or listen to a voice instruction."
The Nadi tights, which were announced at CES and will be available for pre-sale in May, can survive up to 25 washes. As for charging them, the team hopes to create a charging basket wearers can toss the tights into post-workout.
Whitehouse is no stranger to digital fashion. Wearable Experiments’ previous projects include a jacket that uses haptic signals to give wearers directions around a city, and a shirt that simulates what a professional athlete is feeling during televised sporting events.
"We connect people with other people and the places that they love," she told Fast Company last year. "Technology no longer has to be just a distraction."
With the technology in the Nadi tights, Whitehouse and Moir see an opportunity to go beyond yoga and create form-correcting clothing for all kinds of sports, like boxing, cycling, and weightlifting. They also envision a day when your shirt could remind you to sit up straight, or your pants could tell you when it’s time to leave your desk and walk around.
"Yoga’s just our starting point," Whitehouse says. "This can be useful across the board."