From a Microsoft press release, but still really interesting: a researcher is looking at using Kinect to track a senior citizen’s walking more regularly than the usual once or twice a year to make sure they’ve still got that pep in their step:
What if technology could help prevent falls, and in some cases even prolong lives?
Marilyn Rantz and her colleagues at the University of Missouri are researching just that, using Microsoft’s Kinect to measure and monitor subtle changes in the gait and movement of older people. Using technology to measure the way people walk more completely and daily, rather than at bi-yearly doctor’s appointments, can give healthcare professionals a chance to intervene sooner.
[Independent Living Center] Tiger Place focuses on monitoring its residents with a network of sensors placed in apartments, a monitoring network that now includes Kinect sensors in many rooms. What’s more, Tiger Place is an “age in place” facility, meaning seniors don’t have to move to different housing as they get older and require more assistance – the new services they need as they age are brought in to them, Rantz said.
Several apartments in Tiger Place have a Kinect mounted near the ceiling in the living room, where day after day the devices gather a mountain of data about the resident’s movement and motion.
Helping seniors is just one of a growing number of healthcare applications for Kinect.
Doctors are also using Kinect to help stroke patients regain movement. Surgeons are using it to access information without leaving the operating room and in the process sacrificing sterility. Healthcare workers are even using it to help with physical therapy and children with developmental disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Thus, the genesis of the so-called “Kinect Effect” – a term coined in the hallways and conference rooms of Microsoft to describe the device’s increasingly widespread appeal and diversity of uses.
I’m a huge fan of Kinect hacks, especially when a Kinect is modified to help people move better in their homes and everyday surroundings. It is relatively cheap compared to a lot of other medical equipment, and the hack is often fun to use as well as being practical.
Keeping data centers cool is one of the costliest parts for a company running a computer and data system. Microsoft and other companies have already moved many of their data centers to cooler climes like North Dakota and Idaho. Now, the data centers may be able to give something back; all that heat they produce.
The U.S. EPA estimated that servers and data centers were responsible for up to 1.5 percent of the total U.S. electricity consumption, or roughly 0.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, in 2007. With companies such as Apple and Google strongly pushing the move to cloud computing, that figure is likely to increase significantly in the coming decade. Since a lot of energy is consumed keeping the computer systems cool, colder climates are seen as more favorable sites for data centers. But a new paper from Microsoft Research proposes a different approach that would see servers, dubbed Data Furnaces, distributed to office buildings and homes where they would act as a primary heat source.
The Microsoft Research paper says that at around 40-50°C (104-122 °F), the temperature of the exhaust air from a computer server is too low to regenerate electricity efficiently. However, this temperature is perfect for heating purposes, such as home/building space heating, clothes dryers and water heaters. So the researchers argue that placing servers used for cloud computing operations directly into homes and/or office buildings would turn heat generation from a problem into an advantage.