OAK, which stands for ‘Observation and Access with Kinect’, is a software application for use by people with severe disabilities. It has been developed by RCAST at the University of Tokyo, in collaboration with Microsoft Japan, and is available from assist-i corporation.
“The Kinect camera detects, in three dimensions, where people are and what posture they have. We’ve used that capability to develop a system called Air Switch. This system creates virtual switches in the air. For example, if a person has a cervical injury, and can only move from the neck up, you can put a switch next to their head. The switch can be worked by any part of the body, so it can be used by moving the head, like this.”
“Air Switch works by detecting how far away an object is. The system also has a Motion History capability, which detects color changes. For example, if Motion History detects that you’re moving your mouth, the system can put a switch near your mouth. In fact, I’m moving my mouth quite a lot right now, and this system can detect motion with millimeter precision. So, for people who’ve been thought of as totally immobile until now, this system could open up a lot more possibilities, based on scientific data, such as shoulder movements, for example.”
Another option is called Face Switch, which keeps detecting facial movements even if the neck moves to some extent. It can be set so that the switch activates when you open your mouth, or it can also be controlled by sticking out your tongue, blinking or changing the orientation of your face.
“This system was released in April. It’ll soon be available in North America and Europe, too.”