Whether they’re laminate, ceramic or hardwood, floors don’t really do much beyond just lying there. But GravitySpace, a new type of pressure-sensitive videoscreen flooring, aims to change all that.

The New Scientist reported on the freaky new flooring that can recognize people by their weight, detect poses, movements and collisions and display a mirror-like projection on what’s going on above. Scientists at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, created the eight-square-metre prototype with development funding from Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, Baudisch.

GravitySpace is being touted as part of the smart rooms that could become more prevalent in homes and work spaces in the future. For interactive gamers, the floor can generate a CGI soccer ball for an on-the-floor game (see the 1:47 mark of the video for neat gaming examples). Or, as the New Scientist points out, the floor can recognize your weight when you sit down and automatically flip to your favourite TV channel. It’s also handy for security purposes or keeping an eye on grandpa or grandma should they have a fall or experience other health issues.

But how does it work? The floor’s made of pressure sensitive film and contains infrared LEDs, meaning the smart floor can learn it’s own geometry and show locational info about what – or who – is in the room. Objects and people are identified by their weight and an infrared camera helps track movement.

The GravitySpace technology is secured within a glass sheet atop the floor. Beneath the sheet, there’s a projector and infrared camera. The sensitive surface of the floor creates a footprint, which it can send off to a computer. The computer then sends that info to the projector, which mirrors it back into the room and a video of that info onto the floor.

Gravity Space Floors

The prototype will be presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris, France, in April.

For more information about GravitySpace check out the New Scientist article or the research page at the Hasso Plattner Institute.

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