Look Out Hospitals, Xbox 360 Is Coming

22Feb10

Last year when Barack Obama was swept into executive power, one of his main priorities was to create a national healthcare plan and digitize medical records to improve efficiency, saving billions of dollars a year in the process. While his grand plans have been somewhat foiled by a lack of bipartisanship, universal healthcare remains at the forefront of his objectives for this year.

Obama isn’t the only one ballyhooing about the health industry. It seems that everyone wants in on the game, hoping to latch onto its increasing momentum.

Ever since the dawn of the Wii, video game console makers have been trying to transform the health industry with their cheap systems and technologies. The latest company to seriously consider using their video game consoles for non-entertainment purposes is reported to be Microsoft.

There’s no doubt that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 behemoth is a hit, especially amongst “core-gamers,” with lifetime sales at 39 million units. But, is it even a system that can be considered for medical purposes? The Xbox 360 won’t be a replacement for an X-ray scanner anytime soon, but in terms of using it as a low-cost PC to access and display electronic medical records and other health information, the idea piques my interest. Desney Tan, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research says that Microsoft is exploring the potential that the Xbox 360 could have on the health industry, with technologies such as Project Natal’s controller-less input. Following Nintendo’s approach, Natal could be used for rehabilitation.

Microsoft now parties with Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, both of whom are contributing to the health industry with their own strategies.

In 2007, Sony’s PlayStation 3 included the Folding@home project. The application allows scientists at Stanford University to access the idle processing power from PlayStation 3’s around the world in order to study protein folding. By drawing upon the cell processors’ power, regular consumers can help an industry study a worthy cause that would normally have required a billion dollar supercomputer.

Nintendo’s Wii hardly needs an explanation, from Wii Sports being used to rehabilitate seniors to Wii Fit helping build weight-consciousness, it seems health has been a running theme in Nintendo’s agenda since the start. And it doesn’t stop there. Nintendo’s upcoming Wii Vitality Sensor is a little accessory that you stick your finger into and information such as your pulse and and stress levels are extracted. Specifications on the device still remain relatively unknown since Nintendo announced it last year at the E3 Expo, but we should be hearing more on it soon as Nintendo’s plans become clearer.

Consumer electronics are no longer just for entertainment. With the right execution, they can be applied to other sectors to produce productive results. The health industry is just the start. Expect to see video game consoles branch out into other fields in the future. Video game systems are becoming the front runners of innovation and other industries can no longer afford to pass over their potential offerings.



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