Xbox Kinect—beyond playing games

Tomorrow I have a brief meeting with some executives from AARP. The purpose of the meeting is to review some of the cool things Microsoft is doing in health around the world.  In preparing for the meeting I spent a bit of time on the AARP web site.  While doing all this I was also watching a live video stream from E3 2010 where Microsoft was unveiling Xbox Kinect; technology that lets you interact with video games, music, movies, video chat and so much more without using a a game controller or remote control of any kind.  Speak to Kinect and it follows your commands.  Make a defined gesture and it does want you want it to do.  In fact, I think Kinect ushers in an entirely new era in home entertainment.  And that, I believe, is just the beginning!

image So back to the AARP.  I found it curious that the top news item on the AARP home page today was a headline about “video gaming’s biggest week at E3”.  Isn’t this a site for old—I mean retired people?  But wait a minute.  Who, besides an unemployed teen, has more time to play video games?  And there’s plenty of research to suggest that the fastest growing demographic on-line is seniors or at least aging, and soon to be retired, baby boomers.  So maybe that news headline on AARP was more relevant than I first thought.

Turning my attention back to the hoopla at E3, and watching some cool demos of Xbox and Kinect in action, I couldn’t help but think I was seeing the beginning of something really important.  If I can now link with friends and family or even service professionals for video chats using my television; if Kinect’s camera is able to follow me as I  move about the room; if the Kinect device surveys points on my body and is able to translate my body movements into actions or instructions on the screen; then what are some of the possible scenarios?  How about home physical therapy or medical rehabilitation with expert avatars or live health professionals guiding me?  What about supervised exercise programs for weight control?  How about applications for people with cognitive disorders or neuromuscular challenges?  The list goes on and on.

Kinect I’ve been saying for some time that telehealth isn’t something limited to the computer and that one day the “television” in our living rooms (and our mobile phones) would likely become the primary gateway for all kinds of health and home  services.   If you only look at Xbox Kinect as something for young people or gamers, you’d be missing something perhaps even more revolutionary about the inflection point of this technology.  And this is only the beginning.  HealthVault  + Xbox Kinect + Amalga + Medical Devices + Your doctor, your nurse, your hospital, your therapist, and so many others.  Wow!

Bill Crounse, MD      Senior Director, Worldwide Health        Microsoft

Comments (10)
  1. matthew says:

    It would also be interesting to use this for remote surveillance, sort of like the Halo device.

  2. hlthblog says:

    Thanks for the comment Matthew.  And for you gamers out there, I don't think Matt is referring to the Halo you all know, but rather the MyHalo solution we profiled on our on-line video program Health Tech Today.  See…/default.aspx .

    Bill Crounse, MD

  3. Eric says:

    Bill, I couldn't agree more.  Telehealth should be delivered on devices that patients are most comfortable and familiar with.  Today, our elderly generation is most comfortable with a "television" and it's simple remote control.  When designed properly, internet-connected televisions, augmented by touch tablets and driven by Cloud services, presents an unmatched platform for the future of healthcare.

    Eric Rock

    CEO / founder

    Intuitive Health

  4. savan says:

    Interesting, are there any real implementations – disruptive. Around technologies like augmented reality in healthcare. Imagine you standing in hospital and screen in front shows you, gets your EHR and possibilities of checkup.

  5. hlthblog says:

    Thanks for your comment/question, Savan.  Although not yet widely implemented, we do have partners who are doing very good work right now using Microsoft Surface for patient education, medical education, caregiver collaboration, and chronic disease management.  Current implementations are at organizations such as Texas Health Resources, Vanderbilt, etc.  One of the partner developers doing very good work with Surface is Interknowlegy.  Our common user interface initiaitve is another example of the work going on to improve patient safety and make clinical systems more intuitive.  You can read more about that at .

  6. Couldn't agree more with you and Eric Rock. The TV is THE technology that everyone is familiar and comfortable with. What better way to deliver at least some healthcare services to the home, especially of elderly people.

  7. femtobeam says:

    This formula: "HealthVault  + Xbox Kinect + Amalga + Medical Devices + Your doctor, your nurse, your hospital, your therapist, and so many others.  Wow!"

    Can be expanded to: + MMW antennas and sensors for reading brain potentials and essentially eavesdropping on the mind of a person.

    It is only a reversal of that technology necessary to affect the mind of a person and this could be an automated computer program or malicious "mind controller" from any location on the globe with wireless access. Hand in hand with these developments is the need for an automated security solution to prevent unwanted and unnecessary intervention with a person's choices, thoughts, memory and emotions at subliminal and motor neuron levels.

    The enormous potential for good and the advancement of mankind is potentially equally dangerous in the wrong hands. Greatly needed are standards of access and an ability to obtain truthful information about medical records, cross referenced with the patient or subject. The ability to access and correct medical records as well as keeping patient data private from advertising agencies is critical to personal liberty, perhaps to identity in very near term reality.

    With the development of multi-cores, and the emerging BPL (broadband over power lines) solutions reaching 200 mbps bidirectional ability, people become peripherals of the networks with the power companies in the position of distributors. Therefore, re-routing of information to change it on the fly is possible in real time, obscuring the facts. If cable, cell phone and femtocells also have access to the same target, the effect may be life threatening without resolution. It could be that a redesign of worldwide root servers will be needed to address this potential problem, in part.

    At the forefront of these BUI's (you heard it here first) Brain User Interfaces, will be videophiles using Xbox. The inability to keep embedded devices from being utilized by hackers as computers are now will be critical. These eventualities must be planned for in advance with mitigations built into hardware and software.

    Hacking of the mind is not an option for a free and healthy society.

    Thank you for the article. It is great to watch convergence in real time.

  8. John Reaves says:

    We've become very interested in the possibilities of using the Xbox and Kinect to help caregivers and long-term care recipients in a variety of ways, including monitoring, fitness, and communications.   We were intrigued by a quote from Jamie Shotton at the MS UK research office in New Scientist: “It could even serve as a remote monitoring system to help care for elderly people if it was first trained to infer a person’s well-being, or otherwise, from posture and activity levels.”  

    Our group (CareLab at has worked with virtual and 3D applications in the past, and have a set of ideas that might apply; would love to connect with other groups in Microsoft or outside who are interested in this area of application.  Thanks for the article, great thinking!

  9. Bruno Urbain says:

    Fishing Cactus, a game development studio based in Belgium has been working for the last months on a prototype using Xbox 360 and Kinect.

    The project’s name is R.O.G.E.R and stands for Realistic Observation (in) Game and Experiences (in) Rehabilitation. It is a serious game which is used to help patients who suffer from a lack of logic and organizational skills (typically post-stroke patients, Alzheimer, hemi-negligent patients,…)

    More info about the project:…/fishing-cactus-presents-r-o-g-e-r-the-first-medical-kinect-serious-game

    Actually we are one of the first company to have started working with Kinect on what we call Games for rehab.

  10. Peter Grogg says:

    My company, WisdomTools, is working a rehab game for stroke victims in partnership with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (see:  We intend for this to work on the Kinect platform.  Are you aware of any sites offering information (from MS or otherwise) about which movements Kinect is currently able to capture, as well as any plan MS may have in offering higher resolutions options to pick up more subtle movements?  Thanks!  Pete

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