Gaming Console or Health Care Control Panel?
Technology is evolving exponentially around us, changing our lives down to the cellular level. Over the last century, here are some of the inventions that have expanded health care:
- Defibrillator: In 1932, Dr. William Bennett Kouwenhoven creates a way for doctors and other health professionals to restart a heart using electricity.
- Heart-lung machine: The first successful open-heart surgery using a machine to add oxygen to and circulate blood through a human body.
- Polio vaccine: This invention almost eradicates polio in the world, introducing weak strains of the virus so that people can produce antibodies o fight it off.
- Laser: Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist, creates this at Hughes Research Laboratories.
- Artificial heart: The Jarvik 7 is implanted into Dr. Barney Clark and keeps him alive for 112 days. The first one runs on an external compressor.
- Genetic engineering: The first sale of genetically engineered produce is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1985.
- Xbox Kinect: Microsoft's technology allows video game fans to play without using a controller. Different fitness games are released for use with this accessory.
- Xbox One: Microsoft's latest home gaming console is designed to work with a new version of the Kinect accessory.
In a list of health care innovations, you may have been caught off guard by the last two. While they qualify as inventions, many would argue that they haven't had the positive effect that the others have had on the course of human history. Now there is an argument that the Xbox One and Kinect may belong on this prestigious list, as the game console is able to monitor an individual's heart rate using optical technology.
Tech tools for health care
Video games might offer health benefits if used in the right way, as Allied Health World has described. Gaming can help children learn in the classroom, help build and maintain muscle memory, fight against some of the effects of aging, and distract from pain and depression. With the next generation of Xbox console and Kinect device, it seems that Microsoft may be opening the door to a new territory: health monitoring.
A video on YouTube shows a man having his heart rate monitored by the Xbox through the Kinect. Being able to measure heart rate is important in studying the health of an individual, but heart rate monitors are not ubiquitous. The availability of the Xbox might even help to alleviate this problem and confront other health challenges as well. The many fitness games for Kinect include Just Dance, Zumba Fitness Rush, UFC Personal Trainer, and Nike + Kinect Training. These games allow individuals to work out at home, and some calculate the amount of calories burned in the course of playing.
Imagining the possibilities
Now we shift into brainstorming mode: Imagine the day when gadgets can be used to take vital signs while gamers enjoy a workout. Imagine the day when this information can be shared with nurses, doctors, dietitians, and other health professionals in order to ascertain what an individual needs to stay healthy.
Electronic health records are making their way into hospitals and physicians' practices, which potentially allows easier sharing of a person's medical records. Doctors can share test results or opinions, no matter the distance, and share options with patients more quickly. Patients themselves can access their information over the Internet, which might prompt them to take a more active role in tracking their own health.
Back to brainstorming: What if the Xbox could be used to help supplement these health records? What if the measurements taken during game play were then uploaded to the Internet, or to a personal health folder with other information? How much closer would people feel to taking control of their own health?
Tools for health tracking could become even more important with the increase in home health care. Between 2010 and 2020, the demand for home health care professionals is expected to increase by 70 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Having the ability to better monitor health metrics could help these home care specialists provide service to their patients, and collaborate with doctors in the event of a crisis.
Game console or heart rate monitor?
It is important to mention that Microsoft has not made any announcements about using the Xbox for health care. This brainstorming derives from two facts: The new Kinect can read heart rates, and the accessory was built for use with fitness games. During a presentation for the new Kinect, Microsoft showed off this feature and allowed the media to talk about it, as in these observations by Matt Hickey, shared by fellow Forbes contributor Dan Munro:
"10:23: It's more sensitive, can read more data points of articulation [referring to the new Kinect camera]
10:23: The sensor can read your heartbeat
10:23: IT CAN READ YOUR HEARTBEAT"
An article on mobihealthnews by Marcelo Calbucci dives even deeper: as the new Kinect can measure heart rate variability, could this be helpful in diagnosis of certain mental or physical conditions?
The imagined implications of the new game console might be based on wishful thinking. Or maybe this technological advancement could make home gaming devices useful for more than just the young members of a family. With this innovation, consoles could potentially become as integral for older generations as they have become for the younger ones. If reading heart rates is one of the capabilities of this new machine, it might be a welcome sign for those seeking wider access to health care.
About the Author:
Jamar Ramos has been writing poetry and fiction for many years, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. For the last three years, Mr. Ramos switched to producing blog posts for CBSSports.com and writing professionally as an independent contributor for a number of Internet sites. His creative works have been featured in The Bohemian and The San Matean. He now contributes articles for OnlineDegrees.com, OnlineColleges.com, and AlliedHealthWorld.com.