Imperial College London and the Imanova Centre for Imaging Sciences have announced that researchers will use Microsoft’s Kinect video gaming system to improve the quality of brain imaging pictures in dementia research. The two institutions have been awarded a grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to integrate Kinect camera technology into positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, so that motion can be monitored in real time and accounted for in the image reconstruction process. With this project, the researchers aim to acquire clinical data to demonstrate the accuracy and usability of the Kinect 3D technology in a clinical imaging environment.

According to an announcement, many patients find it difficult to remain completely still during scans taken for diagnosis or in research studies. Preventing the blurring effects caused by patient movement has proved to be a challenge in medical imaging, leading to wasted or inaccurate data that makes diagnosis and treatment less effective and more costly. The researchers report that Kinect, which uses a 3D camera to detect gamers’ movements without the need for a controller, could provide a solution.

“This is an innovative way of capitalizing on multibillion dollar investments in the home entertainment industry and applying it to develop an accurate and low-cost solution in the medical sector,” said Roger Gunn, PhD, of Imanova and the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who will lead the project.

The research team is reportedly working with Microsoft and Siemens to develop a reliable and easy-to-use system that can be integrated seamlessly into the scanning environment, allowing widespread adoption in diagnosis and research. By combining the Kinect 2 with computer vision algorithms and high-resolution medical scanners, researchers hope to produce images free of the effects of any movement during a scan. The camera does not require special lighting, direct contact, or attachment to the patient.

Imperial and Imanova are partners in the Dementias Platform UK (DPUK), a public-private partnership developed by the MRC to accelerate progress in research on dementia. “Repurposing low-cost but sophisticated technologies such as the Microsoft Kinect for medical use will not only deliver significant patient benefit within dementia, but has the potential to improve the understanding of a range of conditions to transform the lives of patients,” said Gunn.

More information about the research project may be found on the Imperial College London and Imanova websites.