“Gyms are not really solving the pain points. If you want highly personalised training and access, you still have to shell a good amount of money. That’s not sustainable in the long term,” Indraneel Gupta, the force behind Portl smart fitness mirror, explains why gyms these days only look at annual subscriptions more than helping individuals get fit or adopt a healthy lifestyle.
It was at the beginning of the pandemic last year that Gupta along with Vishal Chandapeta observed that gym sessions lack personalisation until and unless a consumer hires an expensive personal gym trainer. That led them to the idea of developing a smart mirror that delivers a sort of personalised fitness solution at home.
“What we are trying to achieve is autonomy, and empower people to manage their health better,” Gupta tells indianexpress.com in a phone interview. “The product in itself, addresses overall physiological health, energy or physical fitness and mental wellness, and helps people achieve their goals and lead a better life.”
Home workouts are increasingly in demand due to the Covid pandemic as more people want to have the gym in their homes. Although various online fitness solutions have gained popularity, the overall experience remains underwhelming.
“The service is just broadcasting something and you are consuming it, whether it’s relevant for you or not… and form factor as well in terms of a virtual class on your laptop or a smartphone wasn’t very convenient, especially for the audience of people above 35,” he says.
Designed and conceptualised in-house, Portl is a smart mirror that tries to be your personal fitness trainer whenever you need it, at any time of the day. “Form factor was critical but the challenge was to create a solution that takes minimal space. We looked at the wall… and thought of a mirror,” Gupta explains how it took the team six months just to ideate on the concept.
This smart mirror has a 43-inch 4K screen and can either be wall-mounted or floor-standing without taking extra space. But this isn’t a minimalist full-sized mirror, it’s a high-tech device that has embedded bio-sensors, an HD camera, as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. “If you look at gyms in general, you have mirrors all across the walls, because that provides you a reference point for you to focus on your form, look at yourself, and concentrate on your techniques,” Gupta explains why they see a smart mirror is the perfect form factor to replicate the gym at home over other devices.
Gupta says the Portl runs on proprietary software developed just for the smart mirror. On top of that, the user interface is highly optimised and can be customized depending on who is using the device in the home — whether you are right-handed or left-handed, how do you swipe the interface and adjust the UI as per your height.
The company has been beta testing the Portl on several users in Hyderabad since January to understand how consumers access the smart mirror. “We realised that for the people above the age group of 50, and beyond, legibility of what is on the screen is of utmost importance in terms of being able to access the right thing.” That is why the Portl has a senior mode built-in with customisable layouts, making it easy for consumers to operate and interact with the user interface.
“If you are working in our mirror, we will be tracking your body movement, or all body angles, and telling you if there’s something wrong with your arm and teaching how to correct it then and there,” Gupta underlines the importance of biosensors and artificial intelligence to track and analyse body movement in real-time.
The Portl uses seven sensors, including the camera with vision sensors as well as spatial awareness sensors and other biosensors for tracking different metrics such as ECG, blood pressure, blood glucose, body temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate. Gupta, who started his career at Apple’s London office where he primarily worked on sensors and hardware, says a lot of work has gone into biosensors.
“We are looking at baseline metrics, such as your blood pressure, your glucose level, your heart rate, your ECG… these are critical indicators of overall health that need reliability in every meeting,” he explains. “The objective is to deliver your basic health checks at home with a clinically certified product.” He adds: “We don’t want to take a unidimensional view of health, we need to look at multiple aspects in order to actually deliver a long-lasting impact.”
Gupta plans to sell the Portl in two versions, one that includes biosensors and another that lacks advanced sensors. However, consumers can buy a standalone bio tracker for Rs 9000 which can be attached to the device itself. For the model with the embedded sensors, Gupta says the wait is a little longer as it needs to go through the regulatory approval before hitting the market.
“The Portl is going to be the medium through which we are delivering the core value of personalised health, complete form feedback and social interaction,” Gupta highlights how the smart mirror as a concept is a lot different from the available health and fitness tech solutions in the market.
Another big part of the Portl is access to live or on-demand classes, personal training for nutrition, guided meditation and content related to yoga and mental wellness. The approach is similar to Peloton-like studio classes, the fitness company that has changed how America works out at home with its popular indoor fitness bikes. To begin with, the content is being developed in-house at the company’s own studios but in the future, the plan is to tie up with various content providers.
The Portl will cost between Rs 75,000 and Rs 80,000 and will go on sale in the month of October. The purchase of the smart mirror comes with professional installation, something Gupta believes is necessary for a device like this. The company plans to start taking pre-orders for the smart mirror sometime in August. Gupta says he has already got around 150 orders even before the device goes on sale and the priority is to fulfill them in the first batch.
For the first 500 to 600 users, the content is being bundled with the purchase itself, but Gupta is looking at a subscription model for recurring revenue. The device will be manufactured in Hyderabad, where the company is doing sensor integration, perfecting the overall hardware and other development is taking place.
“Because we are positioning ourselves as a brand, and as a product that has tangible value for multiple people in the household, it’s more like a high-tech household for family-focused devices versus a personal wearable,” Gupta replies when asked about how many devices a consumer would pay for to get fit and healthy.
Given that Portl is a fairly new product type and it is best to be experienced, Gupta says they might set up experience zones in order to create awareness about the device. For now, though, the plan is to sell the smart mirror online but for the time being, the company will be servicing the device in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore before gradually expanding market availability.“A lot of people have realised that they don’t really need to do all of that if they get enough quality services in my home,” he says, adding that convenience, flexibility and personalization are important to the people today, rather than when they’re doing it.
Although the Portl is not yet out in the market, Gupta said the company is developing a more advanced version of the smart mirror that offers a digital weight mechanism of up to 100 kg, giving users the ability to do more advanced workouts at home. This version, which will be out later this year, is aimed at pro consumers.