A group of students at the University of Washington are using Microsoft's Kinect to aid in robotic surgery. While the hack won't make surgical robots the next Doogie Howser, it does give them a sense of touch.
The Kinect hack didn't spawn from after a crazy night of beer pong in some student's dorm. Oh no, the engineering students realized that while surgical robots can perform delicate tasks that human hands are just too shaky for, they can't feel. By using the Kinect's depth camera to create more precise 3D maps of surgical patients, the surgical robots can then sense when it's cutting the wrong piece of flesh, brushing against a vein, etc.
Sounds like a breakthrough! You can never be too sure when you leave a life in a robot's hand.
A Kinect hack such as this has never been done before. The engineering students behind this hack say without Kinect, a similar project would have cost them about $50,000. Instead, they managed to put together a better solution for $150 and a bit of programming time.
We're no stranger to Kinect hacks, but this easily wins the "most useful Kinect hack" for this year, thus far. What we want to see next are Kinect's hand gestures used to really get all Operation on the operation table.