Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Falls are a major cause of injury and death among over 70s and account for more than 50% of hospital admissions for accidental injury, so 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 help identity mobility problems early on. Now BBC reports that researchers have shown off a "magic carpet" that can detect falls and may even predict mobility problems. Beneath the carpet is a mesh of optical fibers that detect and plot movement as pressure bends them, changing the light detected at the carpet's edges. These deflected light patterns help electronics "learn" walking patterns and detect if they are deteriorating. With over 19,700 deathes in the elderly in the US in 2008 from unintentional fall injuries and 2.2 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults treated in emergency departments, spotting subtle changes in a person’s walking habits may help identify changes that might go unnoticed by family members or care-givers. “The carpet can gather a wide range of information about a person’s condition; from biomechanical to chemical sensing of body fluids, enabling holistic sensing to provide an environment that detects and responds to changes in patient condition,” says Patricia Scully from The University of Manchester’s Photon Science Institute. “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.""