Kinect: Not Just For Games

Nov 13, 2011 By Sri
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Doctors in Sunnybrook Hospital, Canada, use the XBox 360 Kinect, while they operate on patients. No, they are not exactly playing games. They wave their hands to rotate and manipulate X-ray (MRI) images of the patient's body without leaving the operating table - saving time, saving lives! The Kinect is a year old this week, and it is very exciting to see it being used in amazing ways, beyond just games.

What is Kinect? How does it work?

Almost as revolutionary as the Wii itself, Kinect is a totally new way for you to interact with the game you're playing - using just your body and your voice, so you don't need a remote control. Watch the video first, before reading more about how it works.

The Kinect has 2 cameras - a normal video camera that captures images, and an infra-red camera, that measures the depth of what it is seeing. The Kinect emits infra-red rays, which are invisible to the naked eye, just like x-rays and radio waves. When some of those rays bounce off your body and reach the infra-red camera, Kinect measures the time taken for the round-trip and hence the distance of your body from the TV.

Now, the clever engineers at Microsoft trained the Kinect with millions of videos of human body movements (using a technique called Machine Learning), so the system knows how to map out your skeleton as your body moves. As different parts of your body move, Kinect knows exactly what you are doing, whether you move your hand or your leg, or crouch or jump!

Kinect is good for health!

Doctors at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto, Canada hooked up a Kinect console to their medical imaging computer. Earlier, when doctors in the operating room wanted to look at MRI (or X-Ray) scans, they had to disinfect and leave the operating room, and then scrub back in. But now, they virtually manipulate the scans by pulling it up on screen with a wave of their hand. Virtual reality!

Patients suffering from stroke or other trauma, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, U.K., are using Kinect software to do exercises to regain mobility, coordination and balance.

Tedesys, of Cantabria, Spain, is using the Kinect to help doctors operate on patients through remotely controlled instruments -- an application that could save lives in disaster areas, battlefields, and other areas that may be too dangerous or far away for doctors to go to.

Endless possibilities

Microsoft has released an SDK (software development kit), that will allow just about anyone (even you!) to develop exciting and useful applications using the Kinect. Some future applications are biometric security (making security checks more effective without being intrusive), virtual reality (traveling through fantasy worlds), video conferencing (talking to grandma as if she were in the living room with you), and more.

Can you think of any other uses for Kinect?