May 17, 2020

The Xbox Kinect in healthcare - a winning combination

Xbox Kinect
Craig Mundie
2 min
The avatar characters can show emotion
Games consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect have revolutionised at-home fitness, filtering into the exercise industry with their hugely popula...

Games consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect have revolutionised at-home fitness, filtering into the exercise industry with their hugely popular workout games. Although they have proved a hit with tech-savvy consumers, there are hopes such technology could find a day-to-day use in the healthcare industry.  

Microsoft Research is one of the teams facilitating the integration of gaming technology into the healthcare industry and the Xbox Kinect is one of the main tools in its arsenal.

The Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Canada is one hospital already using the Kinect in its operating rooms to eliminate hygiene and infection problems. The contactless control of the Kinect is enabling doctors and surgeons to view patient notes, scans and x-ray images without the need to touch surfaces that could be infected with bacteria, like a computer mouse or keyboard. This has reduced the time it takes to carry out operations and procedures as doctors do not have to continuously wash and disinfect their hands.

Meanwhile, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, recently told a medical conference the Xbox Kinect has the ability to revolutionise healthcare. Speaking at the Pacific Health Summit in June, Mundie discussed his vision that the Kinect could be used to provide group therapy sessions.

Mundie said he and his team were wondering, “What happens if you don’t want to put yourself in a game, what happens if you can send your avatar out to meet with avatar?”

Avatars are what Mudie’s whole idea is based on; the interaction of virtual character representations of patients and doctors. This type of communication gives patients the ability to participate in group therapy sessions under the anonymous guise of their avatar. “People want anonymity,” says Mudie, “but social contact is important.”

The Microsoft Research team have therefore created a system that combines touch, gesture and speech input so people can interact with the computer just as they would interact with another person.

“People are just sitting at home in front of their television, being projected into a three-dimensional environment where all their interactions; the spatial cues, the audio cues – they’re all correct so there’s a naturalness to it,” Mundie explains.

The technology is so advanced the doctor running the group therapy session will even be able to recognise which patients might need extra support, despite only meeting them in a virtual world. “Even though these are cartoon characters, if you get the animation of the eyes, eyebrows and some elements of the face and the mouth correct, most of the major human emotions are accurately portrayed,” Mundie told his audience.

Although the idea of being able to interact with a doctor virtually rather than physically is fairly out-there, Mundie is passionate about his concept: “We want to change the way people interact with computers. It's a great tool and if you can master the tool it's like mastering a musical instrument; you can do some amazing things.”

Craig Mundie discussing the potential use of avatars in healthcare:

The Xbox Kinect in use at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Canada:

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Jun 24, 2021

Jvion launches AI-powered map to tackle mental health crisis

2 min
Jvion's new interactive map uses AI to predict areas most vulnerable to poor mental health

Clinical AI company Jvion has launched an interactive map  of the US that highlights areas that are most vulnerable to poor mental health. 

The Behavioral Health Vulnerability Map uses Jvion's AI CORE™ software to analyse public data on social determinants of health (SDOH)  and determine the vulnerability of every US Census block group. 

Vulnerability refers to the likelihood that residents will experience issues like self-harm, suicide attempts or overdoses. The map also identifies the most influential social determinants in each region, to show the social and environmental conditions that contribute to mental illness. 

As an example, the map shows that Harrison County in Mississippi has a 50% higher suicide rate than the rest of the state. It also shows a high percentage of individuals in the armed forces at a time when active duty suicides are at a six-year high, along with a high prevalence of coronary artery disease, arthritis, and COPD, all chronic illnesses that are linked to a higher suicide risk.  

The map also shows Harrison County has a high percentage of Vietnamese Americans, who studies suggest have high rates of depression and may be less likely to seek help from mental health professionals. 

The map was built using the same data and analytics that Jvion used to create the COVID Community Vulnerability Map, which was launched towards the start of the pandemic. 

With this new map, Jvion is aiming to tackle the growing mental health crisis in the US. “At a time when so many Americans are struggling with their mental health, we’re proud to offer a tool that can help direct treatment resources to the communities that need it most,” said Dr John Showalter, MD, Jvion’s chief product officer, who led the development of the map. 

“For too long, the healthcare industry has struggled to address social determinants of health, particularly in the context of behavioural health. Our hope is that by surfacing the social and environmental vulnerabilities of America’s communities, we can better coordinate our response to the underlying conditions that impact the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.” 

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