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David Zax

A View from David Zax

Can the Kinect Help Heal Wounded Veterans?

Physical therapy possibilities from Microsoft’s device.

  • December 19, 2012

The “Kinect Effect” is rippling out even further. Michael Peck of Defense News reports that Microsoft is working with the Armed Forces to leverage Kinect technology in the service of physical therapy.

By joining Kinect with certain software, Microsoft can create a package that enables injured soldiers and vets to do their P.T. at home. Peck reports that Redmond is teaming up with the Air Force to “define requirements for a Kinect therapy system”; it’s also talking about the tech with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC, headquartered in Maryland).

The Army and Air Force are hardly the only ones interested in the Kinect’s potential to aid in physical therapy, actually. The San Diego-based West Health Institute has been looking into the matter, reported InformationWeek in October. “The biggest problem with physical therapy is patients not doing enough of it or not doing it properly,” said one of the project leaders. “We are building a tool to help physical therapists measure progress in a fun way that could potentially help patients heal faster.” Georgia Tech has been investigating whether the Kinect can help kids with cerebral palsy.

And physical therapy is hardly the only tool for which the Armed Forces might like to use the Kinect. Peck also reports that the Kinect could be of use for group treatment of PTSD. “They can use avatars, which allows anonymity, but also allows for representatives who are therapists or licensed psychiatrists to connect with them,” Phil West, Microsoft’s director of public sector solutions, told Peck. “Therapists can say, ‘I know who you are because I have your case file. No one else in the room has to see in your face.’ It gives a way to engage and talk through problems while preserving anonymity.”

DARPA, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, Army Medicine, and the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine have all taken a shine to the Kinect, according to one Microsoft exec. And Army Small Business Innovation Research recently asked for proposals of a Kinect system that could track pilots as they flew, thereby gauging whether or not the pilots were spending too much time looking at a single display. This piece of hardware, originally intended for gaming, is ending up in some decidedly non-playful contexts.

At this point, I’m more surprised at this point by sectors in which the Kinect doesn’t play a role (see “Can Kinect Help Detect Autism?”; “Microsoft Announces ‘Kinect Accelerator’ to Turn Hacks into Businesses”).

[Via The Verge.]

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