Kinect as a breathing monitor

Microsoft's Kinect technology continues to amaze, this time when used as a clever way to non-invasively monitor respiration.

Here at ZDNet Health, we are always excited by new and innovative health uses of Xbox Kinect technology.

Lalit Mestha, a principal scientist at the Xerox Research Center Webster, discussed in a recent interview how the Kinect's ability to detect the movements of 3D objects in a room can unobtrusively hone in on the rise and fall of a patient's chest, calculate lung capacity, and tell whether a patient's respiratory status is improving or worsening.

According to an article in VentureBeat, the affordable Kinect could also be programmed to act as an early warning system for breathing-related emergencies.

As nurses, we learn to count respirations while taking the pulse, leaving our hand in place as if still taking a pulse, but shifting our eyes from our watches to the patient's chest and back. This allows us to count respirations when a patient isn't focused on his or her own breathing because breathing patterns change when attention and awareness is brought to them.

Unfortunately, this method necessitates awkwardly bending over the patient with respiratory issues, where caregivers expose themselves (and later others) by possibly coming in contact with airborne pathogens or secretions (in the case of the patient who unexpectedly sneezes), and posing a risk to the already immuno-compromised patient from our own germs. It also means that we must disturb patients who may be sleeping or whose condition makes being touched unpleasant, such as people suffering from burns or fever.

The more monitoring we can do without causing discomfort, the better. Especially if this sort of remote monitoring by Microsoft's Kinect could save billions of dollars, as a recent study suggests.

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