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Researchers Using Kinect To Reduce Cost, Subjectivity Of Childhood Medical Diagnosis

Researchers Using Kinect To Reduce Cost, Subjectivity Of Childhood Medical Diagnosis

March 14, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

March 14, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

University of Minnesota researchers are using an array of Kinect sensors as an objective way to measure potential disorder symptoms in children, saving tens of thousands of dollars over other diagnosis methods.

A cross-disciplinary team from Minnesota's Medical, Science and Engineering, and Education and Human Development Colleges has received an $3 million National Science Foundation grant to use the Kinect sensor in observing and analyzing abnormal movements and behaviors in children -- movements which might indicate problems like autism, attention-deficit disorder and OCD.

Such childhood evaluations are usually conducted using human observation of video data, combined with parental consultation. But lead researcher and professor Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos says the Kinect-based observation and analysis could take the subjectivity out of this process.

"As a doctor, you don't have tangible data," Papanikolopoulos told the AP. "We try to provide the tools in order to back up claims of a mental disorder."

Automating the process with a series of Kinect sensors saves money over human observation, but also over similar observation systems that can cost over $100,000 and require the attachment of intrusive sensors on the child, Papanikolopoulos said.

Open source PC drivers for the Kinect have already been used to adapt the $150 3D camera for everything from art projects to automated robotic helicopters. Last month, Microsoft announced an official SDK for the device will be available for free to non-commercial users this Spring.

While the Minnesota researchers' sensor is due to be ready for testing sometime in the next six months, Papanikolopoulos is reportedly already excited about further scientific uses for the Kinect.

"Something we can do three years down the line, we can do it today because of technology that was destined for the gaming industry," he told the AP. "I don't think Microsoft has realized that [the Kinect] is something that could change medicine."

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