Since Microsoft launched Kinect for Xbox 360, the controller-free device has been adopted for a growing number of non-gaming uses, many of them in the healthcare field. Helping seniors is just one of a growing number of healthcare applications for Kinect.
Microsoft also revealed that it has sold a world-record 8 million Kinect devices in its first 60 days on the market, making the Kinect the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, according to Guinness World Records.
Rantz, a University of Missouri nursing professor, and her colleagues are researching just that, using Kinect to measure and monitor subtle changes in the gait and movement of older people. Using technology to measure the way people walk more completely and daily, rather than at bi-yearly doctor's appointments, can give healthcare professionals a chance to intervene sooner.
"Falls lead to functional issues and other health problems, and can be a precursor to mortality. My mom was a pretty classic case," said Rantz. "It's an age-old problem of aging. So much spins on this particular issue."
Doctors are using Kinect to help stroke patients regain movement. Surgeons are using it to access information without leaving the operating room and in the process sacrificing sterility. Healthcare workers are even using it to help with physical therapy and children with developmental disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Bill Crounse, a medical doctor and Microsoft's senior director of worldwide health, referring to medical uses of Kinect says "Everywhere I go in the world - every hospital, college or public health organization, people are already doing something with Kinect or they plan to."
Keen on encouraging the fast-growing wealth of non-gaming applications that have sprung up for Kinect, Microsoft released an academic and enthusiast software development kit for non-commercial projects in June and will release a similar kit next year for commercial uses.
Thus, the genesis of the so-called "Kinect Effect" - a term coined in the hallways and conference rooms of Microsoft to describe the device's increasingly widespread appeal and diversity of uses.
In the video below, see how rehabilitation therapists are making Kinect an important part of the rehabilitation process for stroke and other brain injury patients at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, England: