This is yet another sign that the future is here and it’s not going away. Seems crazy, but bear with me here. A team at University of Manchester has developed carpet that uses optical fibers laid underneath it to create a pressure map of its surface. This pressure map could be used to detect intruders, sense when an elderly person has fallen, or tell you if you’re favoring one leg over another. It seems so simple, in fact it’s essentially a resistive touchscreen floor, yet the potential applications for it are huge.
Thinking about it in terms of home automation, the gait recognition could be used to tell how many people (even which people) are in a given room of the house. Data like that would be really useful in climate control, allowing the home controller to turn up the A/C, for example, when there are a lot of people in a room. Other fun applications could be pausing the movie you’re watching when you walk out of the room, or having your music follow you around the house. From a health perspective, the system could tell when you’ve been sitting around for a long time and suggest (maybe demand?) that you get some exercise.
As for the elder care applications, fall detection is definitely the most obvious and the simplest near-term solution. But having that kind of data opens up a new set of options. How about a robot that could always know where grandpa was in the house, if necessary could follow a few steps behind him at all times, monitoring his wireless health monitor for an warning signs, and using the floor to detect any mobility problems? I admit, the robot I have in mind looks a bit like K-9…
Of course, I’m not saying I long for a future where all our elderly are taken care of by robots so we never have to see them, but this kind of tech could allow older people to retain their independence for longer periods, as well as open up new possibilities in home automation. I’m excited.
K-9 image via Wikipedia