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!
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.
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