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Multitoe - The Room With A 3D View

posted 6 Apr 2013, 06:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 6 Apr 2013, 06:08 ]

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.

 POTSDAMGERMANY (RECENT) (HANDOUT HASSO PLATTNER INSTITUT) - At first sight, it looks like any other flooring, but the interactive floor at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam cannot only read footprints and identify the person walking, but reconstruct a 3D-image of them and display a mirror-like inverse projection of their actions.

The high-resolution, pressure-sensitive floor, called Multitoe, can accurately track people and furniture in rooms opening up new options for applications ranging from elderly care to interactive gaming.

The team, from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, created the eight square metre back-projected floor prototype, alongside a set of touch-sensitive furniture and algorithms that identify the rooms occupants and their movements above the ground. The smartfloor relies on pressure to enable the floor to locate and analyse users' soles and recognise foot positions.

The prototype is made up of a slab of 6.4 centimetre thick glass installed in a hole cut into a standard floor. There's a room beneath it where an infrared camera and high-resolution video projector track footprints and beam video up onto the glass. Infrared LEDs surround the flooring coated with a rubbery, pressure-sensitive film. A footstep on the surface makes the film interfere with the infrared light, creating an image of the footprint captured by the camera in the room below. The system can identify users based on their soles, track users' foot and body postures, enabling high-precision interaction by focusing on their feet.

"As I am walking across the surface everything I do on the floor leaves imprints," explained Patrick Baudisch, head of human computer interaction at the institute, close to Berlin. "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."

The scientists say the system has advantages over camera-based tracking, namely that it provides a consistent coverage of the room wall-to-wall and is less susceptible to people in the room blocking vision. It also allows for simple algorithms.

Multitoe has numerous potential applications, such as helping take care of the elderly where, for example, a caregiver would be alerted when the patient falls.

"A particular scenario we are caring about is one of assisted living. So maybe you and I are a little bit older and we would like to stay at home, but we still want to have some sort of care taken of us. So we envision a future world, in which the house itself knows more about it's inhabitants and can then support us," said Baudisch.

"This being a generic technology, you could use it for any type of interaction, in a home for example. So if you have that sensor and imagine it covers your entire room, you could certainly use it for interactive applications like games and so on, such as those applications supported by systems such as Microsoft Kinect today, a company we are actually collaborating with on this project. I personally am particularly attracted though to the kind of ubiquitous really calm way of doing things. So I will not be aware of the system until it really needs to help me. But most of the time I am actually just perceiving my natural environment," he said.

One game already invented involves two players kicking a computer-generated soccer ball into opposing goals.

The project was developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England.