Who will develop the Kinect caregiving app?

Two disruptive technologies now in one company -- Skype and Kinect.  Looking back at the past year of technologies that could make a difference in the lives of older adults, I have often thought that Skype and Kinect, not smartphones and tablets, might be the two most significant. Skype because it brings long distance families together (so many examples!) and Kinect because it enables an interaction without the limitations of a mouse, keyboard, or controller. Now both of these are Microsoft's -- and once they've figured out how to commercialize them, we can expect Microsoft, as they have throughout their history, to treat them like platforms for a broad ecosystem of willing partners to extend into new applications.  And therefore, there will be apps that make a difference in the lives of older adults.

Kinect – a universe of developers transcending the game paradigm.  Following the sale of 10 million Kinects, motion-sensing controllers that enable games to be played with gestures, Microsoft recently released a (free) Software Development Kit so that the millions of hackers, university researchers and scientists can do what they do best – invent something Microsoft hasn’t thought of yet. The kit is for creation of ‘non-commercial’ apps that take advantage of Kinect’s capability to sense depth/distance, recognize motions. And from the date last fall that Kinect was released, ideas for its use have come a long way and are not encumbered with the limitations of Xbox ownership and game playing. Take a look at a few of the applications that demonstrate ability to apparently detect facial expressions or remotely manage everything from group therapy avatars to  robots to navigation for the blind and read more thoughts about the Kinect potential for igniting the imagination of developers for real-world purposes.

The ‘Game’ in Kinect was a distraction – instead, it's a user interface, not yet applied.  An arcane data point you probably want to check before entering an operating room: Surgeons who play video games three hours per week make 37 percent fewer errors than non-players in laparoscopic surgery simulations (2005). What’s the important part? They are honing a skill that involves manipulating a joystick. Likewise, what’s the important aspect of Kinect? Not as an Xbox game replacement for the Wii – that's too short-sighted. Instead, it’s a user interface that begs to be applied to caregiving, family communication, and home health applications. Think about replacing expensive home monitoring sensor systems with apps that know you’re home when you turn on the TV, that enable you to connect to your family members with the wave of a hand – that smooth the launch of a Skype session (that’s Microsoft’s too!), and follows a disabled individual around the grocery store. That's taking the long view.

Be ready when the commercial SDK is released.  No doubt Microsoft is working on the licensing for the commercial Kinect SDK (no Xbox will be required and as of this writing, no date has been set). In the meantime, let’s see businesses like Intel-GE CareInnovations search the KinectHacks websites and begin to apply Kinect as a next-generation of QuietCare’s remote activity monitoring.  Let’s see Philips transcend Lifeline with AutoAlert as the next generation of fall detection in the home. Let’s see a social Kinect app that enable older adults to participate group activities at other locations, experience a check-in at the end of the day from a family member, or receive comprehensive telecaregiving from a geriatric care manager. And let's be clear -- as the web has proven repeatedly, protecting proprietary user interfaces when there is a more usable, friendly, and appealing interface design invariably turns out to be a sign of weakness, not strength.

 

Who will develop it? We already have...

Hello Laurie,
Who will develop the Kinect caregiving app? We have already developed it.

I've been following your blog for some time and really enjoy your insights into seniors and technology working together. I work for Log-Tek USA Inc., a technology provider for several industries, including healthcare. We have been developing a product that utilizes the Microsoft Kinect hardware for exercise and physical therapy applications. We have a completed prototype of the product and we are beginning to work with various health care providers to bring this product to market.

With our SHAPES product, we are using the Kinect to allow anyone to create their own custom exercises, tailored to the patient’s needs. The system will then play back the recorded exercise for the patient to follow along, providing real time feedback on their accuracy. This information is then stored for clinician review at a later time. Since the hardware is readily available at many retail locations, patient and provider can perform these tasks anywhere. Our goal is to improve patient outcomes by increasing engagement, ensuring patient accuracy, providing accountability for home exercise, and enriching patient/provider communication.

As you alluded to in your article, Microsoft just released their SDK for the Kinect, and developers can’t currently use that SDK for commercial applications. That isn’t an issue for us because we are not using the Microsoft SDK for our application, so we are not restrained from selling this to a provider.

If you’re interested in learning more about us and our product, please feel free to contact me at karl@logtek-usa.com and check out our product web site at http://www.shapes.us.com . Again, love your blog, and I look forward to more of your insights. Also, thank you for letting me post this to your blog comments!

Kind Regards,
Karl Sanford
Sr. Programmer
Log-Tek USA Inc.

Guardly as a Partner

Laurie --

You really nailed it with this post. Fantastic insight and it is completely in-line with the direction that we are headed as a company.

Full disclosure: I am the CEO of Guardly and we are currently looking for partners that can build a sensor for Microsoft Kinect. If you're out there (partners/developers/hackers), Guardly can be your partner to deliver the emergency response and facilitate the communication between responders.

Guardly is a platform for emergency communication. We have build our technology platform as a fully RESTful web-service API so that partners can build exciting sensor-based products that can detect a problem -- and we'll handle the rest -- notifying others, bridging communication and ensuring a rapid emergency response.

We have already partnered with other in-home autonomous sensors to detect falls by seniors aging in place and we're always looking to stay on the edge of innovation and integrate with new technologies finding their ways into homes. Upon interest, please send a partnership request to me from our website.

Stay safe,
Josh

Microsoft

I have no faith in Microsoft being able to do much right. A new motto for Microsoft might be 'Designing yesterdays technology, tomorrow'.

I give a no better chance than 50/50 odds that Skype will get worse, not better. I am amazed that the MS board feels that the best person in the world to lead MS is Ballmer.

In my humble opinion, Google is the new MS. While Google has had a number of failures, that is a good thing. Show me a company that has made few, if any mistakes and you're looking at an organization that isn't taking sufficient risk.

I could not disagree more with the quote from this post..."and once they've figured out how to commercialize them, we can expect Microsoft, as they have throughout their history, to treat them like platforms for a broad ecosystem of willing partners to extend into new applications. And therefore, there will be apps that make a difference in the lives of older adults."

MS has been dragged kicking and screaming into open source. Only Apple is worse in this regard, but at least their product work as advertised and they are in fact, not only innovative, but innovation leaders.

Thank you.

Microsoft doesn't have to create an app -- other vendors should

Just to clearify:

All Microsoft has to do is act as a clearinghouse (and license vendor for underlying tech) so that partners can create apps that Microsoft helps promote and gets revenue from -- SDKs help that happen.

See links:

1. HealthVault Partner Network:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/healthvault/bb688183

2. Microsoft Partner Network and the Kinect invitation:

 http://microsoftpartnernetwork.com/Videos/OtherVideos/Permalink/5b8ff4d7-c693-4ba9-b01c-8d53ecdd535d#fbid=osKlhq4bmbh

3. Perhaps a conference about who's doing what among their partners for Skype and Kinect apps:

http://www.ehealthnews.eu/events/1881-5th-digital-pharma-a-life-sciences-conference-with-exhibition-organized-by-microsoft-and-partners

No need for them to create an app themselves.

 

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