NASA Smart Shoe

August 1, 2008 7:00:31 AM PDT
Scientists working to help astronauts regain balance after extended flights in zero gravity say they've found a way to use the research to help elderly people avoid catastrophic falls.

An "iShoe" insole has sensors that read how well a person is balancing.

The point is to gather information for doctors and to get people to a specialist -- before they fall.

A grad student who developed the technology while working as an intern at NASA, says a damaging fall is preceded by a number of warnings, similar to how high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure point to a coming heart attack.

He says the idea for the iShoe came to him while he was working at NASA on a project to help astronauts regain balance after months in zero gravity.

The iShoe is not an instant alarm, though it will send out a signal if the wearer actually falls.

It's more like a data recorder that the user can bring to a doctor or balance specialist for help if the dangerous pressure patterns are seen.

The iShoe has a way to go to reach the market.

It's still being tested to ensure it can hold up under constant foot pounding.