How Kinect Can Help People with Hearing Impairments & Stroke Recovery

Oct 01, 2014
Tagged with: How Kinect Can Help People with Hearing Impairments & Stroke Recovery

In November, 2010, the first generation of Kinect hit the markets. The Kinect is a type of motion sensing device created by Microsoft, for use in game systems like the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The innovative Kinect system allows people to control the game without the use of a traditional game controller. Sales of the Kinect were brisk, with around 24 million units being sold by February, 2013. Parents and gaming fans flocked to retailers like Walmart to purchase an Xbox, one that would support the new Kinect technology.

Making Video Games Accessible

Almost immediately, parents and teachers of kids with special needs recognized the appeal of Kinect. Teachers that work directly with children with disabilities have witnessed the benefits of this powerful new technology, according to Interactive Multimedia Technology. In one case, the Happy Action Kinect Party game allowed all students, some of whom have severe autism or who are wheelchair users, to participate in the game. The students were more aware of their peers while using the Kinect, the teacher observed, and they interacted happily with both the game and each other.

Kinect Sign Language Translator

The ability to use Kinect to help people with physical disabilities has caught the eye of researchers. Technology experts in China have developed a prototype called the Kinect Sign Language Translator, which understands the gestures that someone is making and can translate them into both written and oral language, according to Microsoft. This new invention could be a remarkable help to the approximately 360 million people who the World Health Organization estimates have a hearing loss.

The Sign Language Translator is especially amazing because it allows people with a hearing impairment to have a conversation with those who are not deaf. In addition to translating the signs into spoken or written language, the device can also take spoken words and transform them into accurate sign language. The people who are having the conversation sit near the Kinect and an avatar on the screen will represent the person with typical hearing and make the correct signs.

Stroke Recovery

Another way that Kinect is being used to help people is through the Stroke Recovery program, which features three rehabilitative programs. As Microsoft notes, this prototype helps people who have had a stroke to work on and improve the functioning of their upper limbs—all from the comfort of their home. The technology in the Stroke Recovery program can understand and interpret what the person is doing, and can then use this data to assess how he or she is doing in the rehab process.

The Stroke Recovery prototype can also automatically adjust the ease or difficulty of the next session based on a person’s current performance. The Stroke Recovery program works with the Kinect for Windows software, which in turn uses the Kinect’s 3D camera to note and record four dozen points on a person’s body while he or she is moving. This information—which includes evaluations of a person’s motor skills, coordination and dexterity—can also be saved to show to the patient’s doctor. In one part of the program, a pose is shown on the monitor, and the person who had the stroke will try to duplicate it as it moves around.

Researchers are hopeful that people who use the Stroke Recovery program through Kinect will be more likely to work on their rehab and physical therapy, especially since it can all be done from the privacy of home and does not require lengthy trips to and from a rehab clinic.  How has modern technology benefitted your life?

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Author: Gizelle Lachey