The Kinect has been a flop in my opinion, at least from a gaming perspective. The camera sold like hotcakes for a good amount of time, but without software to support it, people are using it more as another surface to dust than as an integral part of their household entertainment. The good news is that Microsoft is encouraging people to find new ways to use the hardware, and we have seen a few important breakthroughs with it. It would seem that things are getting even more advanced as a team at University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development in Minneapolis have found ways to detect the possible early signs of autism with the device.

The long and short of it is that the camera will track children’s movement to see if they are moving hyper-actively or are too still. Both are signs that further testing may be needed. In their first test, the researchers tracked a group of 3-5 year old children, using their clothing colors as the identifier and running the information through an algorithm that would try to identify warning signals from each child. As advanced as this may sound, it is a very primitive test at this state. The team plans to incorporate the information in a way that would test against the Autism Observation Scale for Infants. To ensure the children will be engaged during the “testing” they hope to create games that can get parents and children playing together.

This is great news for parents. There is nothing more terrifying than waiting for weeks to have your child tested for possible abnormalities. Our pediatrician recently had our daughter tested for learning disabilities based on an archaic survey that we had to fill out at one of her check ups. The whole discussion was about the possibility of learning disabilities without any type of comfort or positives given. The kid is fine and passed her testing with flying colors, but without early detection, if something was wrong, we would have been caught unaware. With software that can let your child have fun, while also being evaluated, parents can take a more active role in diagnostics with their children.

In a recent interview by our own Managing Editor, Michael Futter, Storybricks was discussed as something that could be used therapeutically for children with autism. We also covered a charity that was using Once Upon a Monster as a way to help developmentally disabled children. It seems that a few times a month we learn about a new way that games are helping make impactful differences in peoples lives.

Kinect may not have been the hot gaming accessory we all hoped, but it is doing something more important. The use of entertainment innovations in the medical and therapy fields is something all gamers can get behind. I’ll take a less than stellar accessory that helps families and children in more important ways any day of the week. I look forward to hearing more about future breakthroughs in the Kinect’s functionality outside of gaming.