Pushing further the possibilities of what one can do with the $150 Microsoft’s Kinect 3D controller, engineers from Johns Hopkins University managed to hook up a Kinect as an interface for a da Vinci surgical robot. See for yourself:
Nicolas Padoy, from the CIRL laboratory, has demonstrated in a youtube video how to perform a needle insertion as well as other fine manipulation tasks using a kinect and a surgical da Vinci robot used here for non-clinical research.
The 3D positions of his hands are tracked using depth information obtained from the kinect and are used to control the 3D pose of the robotic tool. This approach allows to translate the 3 degrees of freedom of his hands into gestures which can control a device that has 6 degrees of freedom.
He uses the system to perform needle insertion on a suturing pod and also to grasp and transfer 6mm plastic rings between spikes.
All that is missing is a comfortable chair for the surgeon and a 3D screen that gives him full depth-perception of the surgical environment.
One can imagine that better human-machine interactions will arise with the combination of multiple kinects.
Flashbacks: Microsoft Kinect 3D Camera for Hands-Free Radiologic Image Browsing; Kinect Hacked to Give Force Feedback During Robotic Surgery; Xbox Kinect Used to Display Realtime 3D CT Recon Data; Kinect-Powered Surgical Robot to Replace Scrub Nurses?