The Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii are each wildly successful gaming systems. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that each system can be used for more than just traditional gaming. Rather than sitting in place with a controller, both systems invite players to get up and be active. They can also be used for applications that aren’t considered games. From assisting in surgery to serving as training equipment for martial arts
, both systems are showing that they have a level of technical ability that isn't restricted to just playing Mario.
Dancing applications are among the most popular titles for either system. While pad-based games such as Dance Dance Revolution have existed for years, the Kinect and Wii support titles that judge entire performances. One example of this is Michael Jackson: The Experience, a game based on the late superstar’s dance routines and available for both systems. In the case of the Kinect, multiple cameras and proximity sensors work together to form a 3D image of the player. The screen superimposes an image of the player on the screen and rates their performance from start to finish.
Although dancing is an incredible implementation of both systems’ motion-tracking controls, it’s only a small chunk of what both can do. Some of the most incredible uses have seen inventive developers take the hardware for the systems and use it in computers or engineering. Soon after its release, the Nintendo Wii was hacked so that its motion-sensitive remote could be used as a 3D mouse for computers. The Kinect has proven to be even more versatile in its applications. Early hacks for the system included using it to control a computer’s desktop, similar to the method seen in the Minority Report series of films.
More recently, developers have explored uses for the Kinect that are more directed towards benefitting society. One example of this includes the pairing of a Kinect, a vibrating belt, a laptop backpack and a Bluetooth headset. This setup provides real-time tactical feedback on the environment its wearer is in, and could prove to be revolutionary in helping blind people navigate on their own.
In another instance, the Kinect has been used to assist in surgeries. Surgeons normally need to have an assistant present if they need to review images or X-rays of a patient during surgery. Researchers in Germany have converted the Kinect to function as an augment reality X-ray machine. Using a custom installation, surgeons were able to browse through medical images and X-rays while performing surgery on an aneurism without having to touch anything or use an assistant. The result was a smoother surgery process that required less staff, and may one day lead to surgery expenses being lowered.
What’s really exciting is the rate with which new uses are being found for the Kinect and Wii. Just days ago, publishing giant EA announced Kung Fu Superstar. The game promises to teach players the basics of kung fu while delivering an entertaining experience. Unlike other systems that require training equipment for martial arts, a Kinect or Wii appears to be all that is needed by Kung Fu Superstar.
Whatever the application, developers continue to find new ways to harness the power of these systems. Although the Kinect and Wii started as game consoles, it’s becoming evident that their potential is much more unlimited. Perhaps most exciting is the fact that these technologies are still relatively young, so the best may still be yet to come.