A Hacked Kinect Can Help Counter Parkinson's Symptoms

By Tom Pritchard on at

Kinect may not have been the gaming revolution Microsoft hoped for, but at least people are finding plenty of alternative uses for its camera. The latest, developed at Brunel University London, is using it as part of a system that can help people suffering the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

One of the most common, and distressing, symptoms of Parkinson's is something known as 'freezing of gait' (FOG). This happens when a patients' muscles freeze and they are either left unable to move, or they fall over. Previous research has shown that visual clues, like projecting lines onto the floor, can help unfreeze the muscles, but these systems requires a patient to wear intrusive sensors and power packs. So to minimise the need for them, Brunel scientists developed a system that uses Kinect instead.

The system can be installed in a patient's home, and involves a Kinect that's linked up to a ceiling-mounted laser. When the Kinect detects an FOG incident, it will project the lines to help them unfreeze. It can also detect when the patient falls, and will automatically trigger a voice-conferencing call so that they can get help.

Apparently the system has passed the proof of concept stage, and patient trials will begin relatively soon. [Brunel University London]