April 3 - A high-resolution, pressure-sensitive floor designed to track the movements of people in a room could one day help take care of the elderly, according to its German inventors. Called the Multitoe, the floor applies technology to the pressure and patterns of walking, creating a room that interacts with its occupants. Jim Drury has more.
This is the Multitoe, an interactive floor that tracks people's footsteps as they move through a room and provides an inverse projection of their actions. It was invented by computer scientists at Potsdam's Hasso Plattner Institute, led by Patrick Baudisch. SOUNDBITE (English) PATRICK BAUDISCH, HEAD OF HUMAN COMPUTER INTERACTION, SAYING: "Everything I do on the floor leaves imprints. And so for example, when the floor sees two shoes, it will conclude that I am probably standing. And that is one of the interesting things. It does not only see things directly in contact with the area, but it concludes a lot of things that happen above." And that, says Baudisch, is where building design and architecture is heading. He sees a future where entire houses will interact with their occupants, either for recreation or more practical support. SOUNDBITE (English) PATRICK BAUDISCH, HEAD OF HUMAN COMPUTER INTERACTION, SAYING: "If you have that sensor and imagine it covers your entire room, you could certainly use it for interactive applications.....A particular scenario we are caring about is one of assisted living.....we envision a future world, in which the house itself knows more about its inhabitants and can then support us." Developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research, Multitoe is an eight metres squared, back-projected smartfloor prototype. It's cut into a standard floor, above an observation room where an infrared camera and high-resolution video projector track footprints and beam video up onto the glass. Algorithms can recognise an individual's unique foot movements. Baudisch says the system provides better coverage of a room than camera-based tracking and is less susceptible to people blocking vision. The team have already devised a number of interactive two-player games. Adapting the technology into a portable, roll-out, carpet is their next big goal.