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Walk this way: Philips rolls out LED carpets

"Luminous Carpets" hide LEDs right under your feet, and you might be walking on them sooner than you think.

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The future of flooring might be brighter than you think, if Philips has its way. After a few years spent developing the idea, the Dutch tech company is set to begin shipping and installing LED-enhanced "Luminous Carpets" throughout North America, with an official launch set for this week's Lightfair International trade show in New York City.

The notion of carpets outfitted with LEDs is nothing new -- Philips has been working on the concept since 2013, when it partnered with Desso, a high-end European flooring manufacturer, with numerous test roll-outs last year in cities like Venice and Berlin.

Now, the futuristic carpets might soon be on their way to American floors. Airports seem like an especially obvious candidate, with carpets capable of directing travelers to their gate or to baggage claim, but Philips also envisions the carpets in places like hotels and theaters and in small business settings.

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Philips/Desso

Each Luminous Carpet section features a thin layer of LED lights underneath a layer of specially designed, "light transmissive" carpet. When the lights are on, they shine straight through; when they're off, they disappear completely. Philips claims the carpets are rugged enough to handle spills, cleaning and ample foot traffic without the LEDs malfunctioning or overheating.

Directional applications come to mind first, but the carpets can serve an informative purpose, too. In Berlin, a publisher with Luminous Carpets outfitted in their main entrance used them to display the website newsfeed, along with event announcements and customized welcome messages for special guests. Philips also points out potential safety applications, especially for situations when the usual signage might be obscured by smoke.

As for any sort of residential application, Philips doesn't see it as a practical fit just yet. The Luminous Carpets require a fairly intensive installation, and also a connection with a dedicated power source. That living room disco you've been dreaming of will have to wait at least a little while longer.

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Ry Crist/CNET

The carpets are designed to interface with most building management systems currently in use, and come in a variety of neutral-toned patterns and colors. As for the LEDs themselves, they're built to last 20 years or more -- longer than the projected lifespan of the carpet sitting on top of them.

Philips hasn't announced any specific destinations for the carpet just yet, but says that there's strong interest on multiple fronts. We'll keep an ear to the ground as businesses start trying it out.