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Microsoft's Kinect to help speech, visually impaired to 'talk and walk' seamlessly

K Rajani Kanth  |  Hyderabad 

Kinect, a motion-sensing input device based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral by IT giant Microsoft Corporation for its Xbox 360 console and Windows PCs, is not just for games anymore.

Employees at the Microsoft India Development Centre (MSIDC) in Hyderabad have developed applications using Kinect, which would help hearing and speech impaired ‘talk’ to others across the world, and visually impaired ‘walk’ their way to their destination safely through objects in an indoor space.

Kinect Bridge, the application that we have developed using Kinect, recognises dactylology (a representation of the letters of a writing system or a numeral system using only the hands) and converts it into text in a chat window, thereby establishing a seamless communication between a speech impaired and a normal person, says Bangaru Venkatesh, team leader of Kinect Bridge project.

“We are taking the first baby step with Kinect Bridge, which is currently under development. This could also be used to translate gestures into voice. Commercialising ...? Microsoft will take it further from here. They (Microsoft) can put it up for 'moonlighting' and will have no liability on these applications,” he adds.

Another innovation developed using Kinect is Kinectacles. As the name suggests, it helps visually impaired ‘Kinect’ spectacles. According to team leader Rishabh Verma, Kinectacles features near-real time and accurate depth recognition, and helps a visually impaired person navigate indoors on his own.

“We have incorporated real-time scanning to recognise objects, which directs the visually impaired whether he should move further or not using an interactive voice command. We are planning to bring in image recognition, besides Bing maps, which would help the visually impaired navigate from Position A to Position B,” he says.

Kinect Bridge and Kinectacles were part of the 58 ideas showcased at Microsoft’s Garage Science Fair at MSIDC on Thursday. Conceptualised by Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, USA, four years ago, “the Garage Science Fair is aimed at encouraging grassroot innovations among employees in their spare time,” says Matt Hempey, senior principal solution manager, Microsoft IT, Hyderabad.

Aimed at solving real-time issues, the Garage Science Fair at MSIDC also has on display an application for Windows Phone. Christened My Obstetrics, the app accompanies expecting women on their journey into motherhood.

“By entering details about her, including name and the last period date, the app provides ready-at-hand information about all the differences in the body of an expecting mother and the fetus. It acts as a friend, a guide all the way in the journey from conception to delivery,” explains team leader Prasant Gaurav.

My Obstetrics helps a mother-to-be track her body mass index (BMI) all through her pregnancy tenure and avoid any post-pregnancy complications that may arise due to increased BMI. Besides, it enables save emergency contacts at one place for easy reference and one-click call, set reminders for doctor’s appointments, medicines and diet schedules.

“Commercialising My Obstetrics is still in the planning stage. It requires commercial viability tests by Microsoft. We have initiated the process and it would take a month or so to launch the application globally,” Prasant says.

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First Published: Fri, May 18 2012. 13:47 IST