Next time your parents claim that nothing good would come from gaming, this little anecdote might tide things in your favor. Of course, it’s gaming technology that’s in focus here, but we’re not going to split hairs. Microsoft’s Kinect controller has become one of the most hacked and repurposed gaming peripherals in the market and that kind of modification might soon benefit medicine as well. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have developed a way to reduce radiation exposure when taking X-rays by reusing the technology found in the Kinect.
X-rays have become a fact of life in the medical field but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous anymore, especially when it involves children. It’s less about the amount of radiation absorbed in a single X-ray shot but the cumulative effects of repeated X-rays. In children, the risk is even higher because sometimes an X-ray needs to be retaken again and again if the child makes even the slightest movement. Being a child, that’s pretty much a given.
That is where the Kinect comes in. It doesn’t actually reduce the amount of radiation itself but it could prevent further retakes. How? By making sure that the proper body measurements have been taken and that the body is in the proper position and unmoving right before the X-ray is taken.
The Kinect’s technology does the above in two ways. First is that its infrared sensors are able to accurately measure the thickness of the body part being measured, a critical data to adjust the X-ray machine for minimal radiation exposure. The second part is something most Kinect users already know. The motion sensor will alert radiologists if the patient has moved even before the X-ray is taken so that nothing goes to waste.
Steven Don, MD and his colleagues used an older Kinect 1.0 and proprietary software they developed on their own to tie up the gaming peripheral with X-ray machines. The funding they recently received will go towards further research, including porting the whole setup to the latest Kinect 2.0 hardware.