It’s time to add one more item to the ever growing list of things you can do with a Kinect. Previously all we had were fun hacks to play games differently. Now, a group of students from the University of Washington have put forward a more useful way to utilize the Kinect – robot surgery. This breakthrough takes the Kinect to a whole new level – one I don’t even think Microsoft saw coming.
One of the problems associated with robotic surgery now is the lack of feedback that surgeons experience while controlling the robots. For example if they move a surgical instrument into something sold, the joystick can keep moving forward, but the surgeon won’t know that the instrument is stuck. Scientists have been developing force feedback controls to overcome this problem.
To map out a person’s body, a CT scan was initially proposed but a student suggested the use of a depth camera, and here is where the Kinect comes in. The student named then developed software that will allow the Kinect to create 3D maps of a person’s body. The 3D maps can then be used together with the force feedback controls to aid surgeons in their robotic surgery operations. In addition to mapping out a person’s body, the data can be used to program off-limit areas, so for example if a surgeon were to work on the area around a kidney, the controls won’t let the robotic arms anywhere out of the zone.
The Kinect and software aren’t ready for use in hospitals at the moment because a few upgrades will need to be made to the Kinect camera before it’s ready for surgical use. Isn’t it insane to know that medical procedures like these are possible using gaming technology? It makes us wonder – what’s next?