A team of researchers from the University of Manchester – among them a nurse, a chemical engineer and a psychologist – has developed a carpet that can map 2D images from beneath its surface. The carpet is fitted with plastic optical fibres and uses a tomographic technique to capture the images.
The imaging sends information about foot pressure, gait and cadence to a computer that then analyses each movement, detecting variations and inconsistencies. The carpet – presently referred to as the ‘Magic Carpet’ – can help detect falls as well as the altered movements and diminished mobility that frequently precede a fall.
Manchester University professor Chris Todd highlighted the carpet’s potential to provide preventative care. “More than a third of older people fall each year, and in nursing and residential homes it is much more common than that,” he said. “Being able to identify changes in people's walking patterns and gait in the natural environment, such as in a corridor in a nursing home, could really help us identify problems earlier on.”
In addition to recognising an individual’s walking pattern, the carpet can also detect fire, chemical spills and alert residents to the presence of a foreign entity – like an intruder – based on their unfamiliar strides and movements.
As the ageing population increases, the needs and concerns associated with limited mobility demand solutions like this carpet to help protect this demographic. For more on design for ageing consumers, see New Age Thinking: Design for The Elderly.