It's odd what things withstand the test of time. Melville, Picasso, Fellini, Coltrane: all masters of their craft, whose art certainly deserves to withstand the test of time. But a campy Life Call commercial from the late 1980s?

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't, at some time or another, used or heard the punch line "I've fallen and I can't get up." Even people born after 1987 understand the line's strange cultural phenomenon. It's the meme that won't die, probably because paramedics are always on their way.

Well, get ready for the 21st Century reboot of "I've fallen and I can't get up." IBM was recently granted a patent for a "smart floor" that is able to detect if someone has fallen or if intruders are tiptoeing across the premises.


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Equipped with floor sensors, the technology can distinguish between shapes, weight and number of feet to determine if adults, children, infants, pets or unauthorized visitors are stepping across the floor.

The smart floor could be programmed to sound alarms, activate emergency lights or call emergency responders if the system identifies someone lying on the floor. Just like Life Call…kind of.

But the smart floor isn't just for saving grandma and catching bad guys, it also can be used to keep small children and Fido from going where they shouldn't.

"For example, if the system senses that a small child is in an 'off-limits' location, such as a swimming pool or hot tub area, the child's caregiver can immediately be notified to prevent the child from getting hurt," the patent explains. "Similarly, if the system senses that the family dog has entered an area that is off-limits, such as a living room or bedroom, actions can be taken accordingly."

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No word yet if and when IBM plans to produce the smart floor or how much it would cost. Until then, better put on your Life Call necklace.