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Kinect Hack Helps With Robotic Surgeries

Kinect assists with robotic surgeries.
While surgical robots are much more precise than clunky human hands, the surgeons who use these devices aren't able to guide the 'bots with their natural sense of touch, and this can make it easier to bump into a delicate organ or artery. In response to this problem, some graduate engineering students at the University of Washington recently developed an Xbox 360 Kinect hack, which uses the hardware to create 3-D maps of the body's interior and to provide force feedback to surgeons. Aside from rumbling, the joystick will actually lock up in certain instances when a surgeon nears an area that could hurt the patient, creating a so called "force field" around specific body parts.

Researchers say the Kinect is the perfect device for assisting in robotic surgeries, because it's already programmed to measure and map 3-D environments by using infrared light reflected off surfaces. And, most importantly, it costs only $150 -- pocket change in the medical device world. Fredrik Ryden, one of the students involved, said this project could have cost upwards of $50,000 without the Kinect.

While this research is pretty amazing, the Kinect isn't ready for the O.R. just yet. First, the researchers need to upgrade the Kinect's built-in cameras and scale down its sensors to focus on a smaller area, since the device is programmed to scan an entire room. That could take some time to accomplish. Still, Ryden and his colleagues already have their eyes on another UW student's surgical robot, which they hope to integrate with the feedback system soon. Surgeons might want to start brushing up on their gaming skills now.

Tags: health, kinect, kinect-hacks, medical, Microsoft, MicrosoftKinect, research, robot, science, surgery, top, university of washington, UniversityOfWashington, VideoGames, Xbox-360