Skip to Content

Hearing Steps

An unobtrusive, brick-sized box analyzes the footstep patterns of the elderly to detect when they have fallen and to give early warning of certain diseases.

The floors have ears. Biomedical engineer Majd Alwan and his colleagues at the University of Virginia have developed a device that analyzes the footstep patterns of the elderly to detect falls and give early warning of certain diseases. Unlike monitors that require users to wear sensors, walk on special platforms, or be videotaped, this device sits on the floor unobtrusively. The brick-size box contains a sensor that measures tiny vibrations and a microprocessor that learns a person’s normal walking habits and uses signal-processing algorithms to detect changes. If the person falls, or limps or shuffles-warning signs of diseases such as osteoarthritis or Parkinson’s-the monitor alerts a computer to send a message to a caregiver. The goal, says Alwan, is to “bring gait analysis out of the lab and into the home.” His team recently spun off a company to commercialize the device, which could be placed in homes and assisted-living facilities within a year.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.