Kinect is Microsoft’s motion sensor add-on for the Xbox 360 gaming console. The device provides a natural user interface (NUI) that allows users to interact intuitively and without any intermediary device, such as a controller.

The Kinect system identifies individual players through face recognition and voice recognition. A depth camera, which “sees” in 3-D, creates a skeleton image of a player and a motion sensor detects their movements. Speech recognition software allows the system to understand spoken commands and gesture recognition enables the tracking of player movements. 

Although Kinect was developed for playing games, the technology has been applied to real-world applications as diverse as digital signage, virtual shopping, education, telehealth service delivery and other areas of health IT

In March 2011, doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto began using Kinect to manipulate medical images through gestures during some operations. Doing so allows doctors to interact with the images without leaving the sterile operating area, which means that they don’t have to scrub up repeatedly. Keeping doctors within the sterile area lowers the risk of contamination and can prevent delays of up to an hour over the course of an operation. Cumulatively, that time could enable more operations to be performed. The hospital also plans to use Kinect for other purposes, such as physiotherapy.

Released November 4, 2010, Kinect had sold 80 million units by January 3, 2011, achieving the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling consumer electronics device.

Kinect’s development codename was Project Natal. Microsoft chose the name Kinect as a portmanteau of the words kinetic (meaning related to or producing movement) and connect, which the company considers the two key purposes of the system.

See also: virtual reality, augmented reality, CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment), CAVEman, gamer

Learn more:

Microsoft Kinect makes an official push for health care.

A look at mobile health care trends and technologies.

Will Kinect make it in the enterprise?

This was last updated in March 2011

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