It might not take you on a romantic ride around the world, but this high-tech rug developed at the University of Manchester could help rehab, elderly, and other fall-prone patients. The carpet consists of special plastic optical fibers and sensors throughout that map 2D images of a patient’s footprints by using light propagating under the surface, somewhat similar to tomographic techniques used by medical scanners. These images can be analyzed and used to detect patterns and changes in a patient’s walking habits and predict whether he or she is at an increased risk of falling. Naturally, the carpet can detect if a fall has actually occurred as well.
The smart carpet has other applications beyond use for fall-prone patients. Physical therapists can use the carpet to map changes and improvements in a person’s gait. Moreover, the imaging technology can be easily modified to gather other information about a patient’s condition (weight changes, for instance, might indicate a pending CHF exacerbation). According to team lead Dr Patricia Scully, these sensors make the carpet a very versatile device for monitoring a patient.
News release from the University of Manchester: ‘Magic carpet’ could help prevent falls