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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Dec 5 2010   8:15PM GMT

XBox 360 Kinect coming to health care



Posted by: RedaChouffani
EHR, Kinect, Touch-less Kiosk, X-Box 360

The recently released Xbox 360 Kinect has been a much anticipated event for many gamers. This device has enabled the human body to become the actual controller.  While this is not new technology by no means, it has still created a sensation amongst hackers and developers.  The goal was to utilize this $149 device to interact with our computers by simply using hand gestures.

Currently there is no official release of the drivers for this device from Microsoft. However, hackers have simply designed their own and published all the source code for it in the internet. These files enabled others to develop programs that can work with this wonderful device. Several individuals have already filled YouTube with different concepts running on all sort of platforms (Mac OS, Linux and of course Windows 7) and what they have designed to work with the Kinect.  But Microsoft has already been planning to do similar things with this technology.  Back in August of 2009 it applied for a patent (click here) titled “Gesture Keyboarding “.  It has described in this that it is looking to develop a concept that will allow a user to make a gesture by either making a pose or moving in a pre-defined way that is captured by a depth camera and this would control a PC or such device.

when thinking about gesture controlled PC, the Minority Report and Tom Cruise come to mind., except with the Kinect you will not need gloves. Or attachments to your fingers. Now with the availability of several SDK (Software development kits) and source code many are able to experiment with this technology.

What is most of interest to me at this point is the potential applications of such a device in the health care, following are some of the ideas where this technology can be applied to:

  • Develop add-ons to PowerPoint for Presentations can be fully controlled by human gestures.
  • Develop applications that can be used to interpret sign language to be used in health organizations.  This would reduce cost and time waiting for an interpreter.
  • Implement some of the functionality as part of the a PACS or Imaging viewing system.
  • Next generation Web meetings where you can collaborate and annotate on documents just by simply using your fingers are pointer devices.
  • Physical therapy where the software provides feedback and assistance in rehabilitation centers and help patients.
  • Meetings that use project on the wall can now annotate and draw in the air and the projected image shows reflects what their finger drew.
  • Tvs controlled by gestures
  • Surgery rooms where surgeons can interact with images by simply making specific gestures and seeing the desired result
  • Touch-less Kiosks with non physical keyboards to reduce disease due to spread of germ from touch

Since the first prototype of the mouse in the 60s that changed the way we interact with systems, Kinect can and will most likely enhance the way we interact with computers.  Today we continue to see it commercialized for gaming but clearly signs seen out there from the progress made by software enthusiasts, hackers, EHR vendors and many with vision for the future, one day we may see these types of devices embedded in our TVs where we can change the channel simply by waiving our hand from left to right.  But for now, I will continue to experiment in my own lab and see what other possibilities can be accomplished with this type of technology.

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