Hugh Pickens 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. Thus, 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 deaths in the elderly in the U.S. 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."
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