Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 5/5/2003Worrying intelligence from the Continent. German chipmaker Infineon is demonstrating a smart carpet --- no, not a nice taupe rug with subtle ethnic influences, but one with chips, sensors, light-emitting diodes and wiring all in the weave.

Monday 5/5/2003
Worrying intelligence from the Continent. German chipmaker Infineon is demonstrating a smart carpet --- no, not a nice taupe rug with subtle ethnic influences, but one with chips, sensors, light-emitting diodes and wiring all in the weave. The idea is you cut and lay it just as any other carpet, but then you apply power. The monster matting wakes up, each chip seeks out its neighbours and creates an ad-hoc network. It's then ready for work. What work can a carpet do? Well, the sensors can warn about fire or flood, or it can tell where you are and the lights then guide you to your destination. It can flash advertising messages, and -- one presumes -- you could play a really neat game of physical Space Invaders. So far, so good. Infineon says that even when parts of the carpet get damaged the rest of the circuitry can route around the problem. Which sounds ominously like the way the brain works, with its neurons constantly reconnecting and rerouting. What we may have on our hands here isn't just a piece of flashy floor covering, but the world's first truly self-aware device. Not so much MFI, more MFAI. And it's a carpet. How annoyed is it going to get about that? Not only will it have a justifiable grievance at its lot in life, but it'll have to put up with the sort of damage that does for us humans. Take a teenage party: the amount of booze, fag ash and pharmaceuticals that ends up on the floor would put a rhino into The Priory. We'll have to employ detox textile specialists to coax the poor thing back into sanity afterwards. And imagine the banter between the smart vacuum cleaner and the carpet: "Sure, you've got flashy lights, but I've got wheels and I'm free." "Naaah, suck on this!". It'd make a good movie -- Mad Mats, Beyond The Underlay We are tumbling headfirst into a frightening future, where even the soft furnishings plot and scheme against us. Trouble ahead, you mark my words.