Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 18, 2013

Kinect is No Longer Only for Playing Games and Losing Weight



Something I have been begging for as each holiday and my birthday rolls around is Microsoft Kinect. Touted as being an add-on for Xbox 365 and delivering a “controller-free gaming experience,” the product, although originally unveiled only back in 2010, sold an astounding eight million units in its first 60 days on the market.

Kinect enables users to make gestures and speak to navigate through a variety of games, an idea that has completely revolutionized the lives of gaming enthusiasts around the world. But, did you know that this system is now being leveraged by an increasing amount of surgeons in order to adjust MR images in the operating room? If you didn’t know, now you do, and one of the major factors prompting the user of this technology is how it’s raising sterility in an environment, where if anything is left less than completely clean, it could mean the difference between life and death of patients.

According to a just-released study titled, “Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association,” surgeons are seeing a great need for Kinect due to its hand-free features. If these doctors were to try and adjust MR images using a computer, they would then be forced to touch and mouse or a keyboard and once again have to go through the detailed process of cleaning their hands before operating. Kinect increases efficiency through eliminating the need to touch anything at all.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time doctors have turned to Kinect to improve the sterility when performing life-saving surgery. Beginning in 2011, shortly after the time of the next-generation platform’s official debt, Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto turned to the product and implemented a three-step process.

“First, they developed an MR image browser application and studied the gestures of 10 surgeons to establish which of their gestures would be appropriate to use with the application. Second, the team developed gesture-recognition software that would detect the intentionality of users' gestures. And finally, they performed three experiments to validate whether the system could discriminate between intentional and unintentional gesture,” a recent article revealed.

When experimenting to see the overall benefits of using Kinect within emergency situations, the first time it was revealed that it could detect accurate movements at a rate of nearly 97.9 percent. The second scenario yielded even more impressive results, with 98.7 percent of the time being able to determine intent of context.

Juan Pablo Wachs, one of the study's authors as well as an assistant professor at Purdue University added, "When you don't look at the context, you're just looking at the hand movement to control a medical image in a browser. There are a lot of reasons a surgeon may want to perform hand movements. The critical point is that the application has to be able to recognize the intent of the surgeon to be able to know whether he's performing movement to manipulate the images in the browser."

Back in June of last year, Kinect was applied during extremely complicated aneurysm procedures. Basically, it was able to assist medical care professionals in moving images in different directions and angles with only their voice and movement.

"This technology is very exciting as it allows me to easily and precisely control the imaging I need during operations," Tom Carrell, senior lecturer at King's College London and a vascular surgeon concluded. "Touchless interaction means there is no compromise in the sterility of the operating field or in patient safety."

With the goal of eventually being able to utilize Kinect in nearly any hospital circumstance that demands a hands-free approach, soon the product once used solely for entertainment could prove to be just as vital to saving lives as nurses and other equipment.




Edited by Rachel Ramsey




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