Microsoft's Xbox Kinect might have some interesting healthcare uses

Gamers aren't the only ones excited about yesterday's launch of Xbox Kinect, a motion and voice controller for Microsoft's Xbox gaming system. Some see important healthcare uses for the new gadget, which hits stores Nov. 4.

"If I can now link with friends and family or even service professionals for video chats using my television; if Kinect's camera is able to follow me as I move about the room; if the Kinect device surveys points on my body and is able to translate my body movements into actions or instructions on the screen; then what are some of the possible scenarios?" wonders Dr. Bill Crounse on the Microsoft HealthBlog. "How about home physical therapy or medical rehabilitation with expert avatars or live health professionals guiding me? What about supervised exercise programs for weight control? How about applications for people with cognitive disorders or neuromuscular challenges? The list goes on and on."

Sure, you'd expect a Microsoft senior healthcare official to tout the company's product in these ways. But Crounse isn't the only one.

"Kinect for Xbox 360 adding a little fitness to video games?" asks the headline of a Baltimore Sun blog post. Wii Fit did that already, but Kinect takes it a step farther, eliminating the need for a handheld controller or step platform.

"In the healthcare industry, you can envision a doctor gesturing to go through a series of X-rays. You could also do this approach with touch, but Kinect for business could eliminate the need to carry a tablet around," ZDNet's Larry Dignan writes.

In other words, the Kinect is taking the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad flip motion and moving it to the TV screen, while also apparently getting rid of a serious problem with such devices in healthcare settings, namely infection control. If you don't touch the screen, you can't pick up or spread germs, right?

Is this over-hyping a product we don't know all that much about yet? Or are we on the verge of yet another breakthrough even before iPad mania cools down? - Neil