Can gaming equipment diagnose autism? Scientists say yes, illustrating how mobile technology meant for entertainment can have wide-ranging medical applications.
University of Minnesota researchers harnessed the sophisticated motion sensors on Microsoft's Kinect to develop a system of detecting autism.
Researchers set up Kinects throughout Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, and use the devices to see children's interactions with them to find behavior patterns that fall along the autism spectrum. Detecting behavior along the autism spectrum disorder can take a long time, since many of the tell-tale signs are subtle and easy to miss unless the children are subject to lengthy, intense observation.
The Kinect experiment processes the children's movements and submits the data to an algorithm that can sort out potential cases of autism, alerting the scientists about children who need further study.
If this monitoring method catches on, it may help detect autism early, since it streamlines the processes of determining which children exhibit behaviors that need further examination. This is important, because detecting developmental delays for children on the spectrum as soon as possible help them get better treatment earlier.
This is the first time researchers used gaming devices to identify autistic characteristics, but autistic children are reaping widespread benefits from the rise of mobile technology, particularly tablets and portable gaming devices.
This diagnosis strategy could also be adopted in other areas, with hospital waiting rooms installing Kinect sensors processing multiple patients and several different algorithms, creating a sort of automated triage system.
Doctors still need to examine patients personally in most cases, but this method can help root out children and patients who likely require extra medical attention. If this observation strategy catches on for doctors looking at autistic patients, it may also catch on to identify and treat other ailments, potentially improving health care diagnosis on a wide scale.