Besides bringing controller-less motion control gaming to the household, the Kinect is just a pretty sweet piece of tech. The Kinect has been modded to perform a number of tasks that its engineers never even dreamed of the Kinect doing. The good thing is, Microsoft's only encouraged the development of these Kinect mods and hacks, making the Kinect SDK open to all.
Researchers at the University of Michigan haven't tweaked the Kinect sensor in anyway, but they're using the technology for unconventional means. They've brought the Kinect into the classroom. Don't get too excited about the Kinect and gaming being used as educational tools just yet. The researchers are actually hoping that the Kinect can be used to help diagnose autism in kids.
The Kinect's motion sensor can be used to observe children and pick up on whether they exhibit the symptoms of autism through movement—either being too hyperactive or too still. Generally, diagnosing autism is a long process, as it involves doctors observing a child's behavior over a long period of time. The Kinect would be a useful tool in helping with diagnosis:
"The idea is not that we are going to replace the diagnosis, but we are going to bring diagnosis to everybody," Guillermo Sapiro, University of Minnesota researcher, says. "The same way a good teacher flags a problem child, the system will do automatic flagging and say, 'Hey, this kid needs to see an expert'."
However, the technology's not perfect for diagnosis, since the motion sensor can't account for any symptoms beyond what can be studied in motion, such as "language delay and limited eye contact."
Even then, it's nice to see that the Kinect's uses lie beyond shouting ineffectually at your Mass Effect 3 teammates.