Researchers engineer ‘magic carpet’ which could help prevent falls

1 min read

An electronic 'magic carpet' which can detect when someone has fallen and help with mobility problems has been demonstrated by researchers at the University of Manchester.

The carpet uses plastic optical fibres on its underlay, which bend when anyone treads on it and map walking patterns in real time. Tiny electronics at the edges also act as sensors and relay signals to a computer. These signals can then be analysed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behaviour or predict an incident such as a fall or trip. The imaging technology could also be developed to detect the presence of chemical spillages or fire as an early warning system. To enable this, the team used a novel tomographic technique similar to hospital scanners which maps 2d images by using light propagating under the surface of the smart carpet. The researchers belive that the technology could be used to fit smart carpets in care homes or hospital wards, as well as being fitted in people's homes if necessary. Physiotherapists could also use the carpet to map changes and improvements in a person's gait. "The carpet can be retrofitted at low cost, to allow living space to adapt as the occupiers' needs evolve – particularly relevant with an aging population and for those with long term disabilities – and incorporated non intrusively into any living space or furniture surface such as a mattress or wall that a patient interacts with," commented Dr Patricia Scully from the University of Manchester's photon science institute.