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Kinect inspires bionic vision for the blind

Dr. Stephen Hicks/Oxford University

While some scientists have been busy using Kinect for the forces of eeevil (read: to turn helicopters into our future robot overlords), it seems others have been busy using the motion-sensing game controller for good (read: to help the blind see).

Oxford University researcher Dr. Stephen Hicks (our hero) is working on a pair of glasses that will help people with a very small amount of vision see again. And he was inspired — at least in part — by the Kinect game controller.


Hicks' prototype for the spectacles just went on display at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition in London.

The glasses have tiny cameras built into the frames and small LED lights built into the lenses and are attached to a small but sophisticated computer that detects what's in front of the user. The computer behaves like a small robot, seeking out things of interest and presenting them to the person wearing the glasses in a simplified way.

Hicks has said that Kinect — the camera-based motion-sensing controller for the Xbox 360 — as well as the iPad have helped inspire some of his team's work.

"These days computers are small enough and powerful enough to do a lot of real time visual processing such as person recognition or depth recognition and in certain cases to be able to read words," Hicks explains. "The simple idea is that the computer will recognize objects of interest and display them in a way that is simplified and bright enough for a person who has only a small amount of sight."

Hicks says his aim is to make the glasses as discreet as possible and also as cheap as possible so the average person will be able to afford them. The lightweight glasses will look essentially like normal glasses (see picture above) and the small computer they're attached to will use basically the same components that are used in smartphones, he says.

You can see Dr. Hicks discuss the project in more detail here:

Now, here's hoping these glasses also will be able to detect an incoming Kinect-controlled quadrocopter attack. For the sake of all humanity.

Thanks to Kotaku for the heads up.

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Winda Benedetti writes about gamesfor msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things right here on Twitter.