Will Carroll has an intriguing think piece at Wired.com about Microsoft Kinect’s potential to bring biomechanical analysis to the masses.
If you’re not familiar with Kinect, which launched last week, it’s an add-on device for the Xbox 360 that allows you to control Xbox games with your body’s movements. Unlike the Nintendo Wii, Kinect doesn’t require you to hold a wireless controller — cameras in the device track and interpret your movements. Kotaku has some good Kinect coverage if you’re interested.*
In the Wired piece, Will Carroll notes that while biomechanical analysis of pitchers can help coaches correct unhealthy motions and save careers, even at the Major League level few teams currently have formal analysis programs in place. This is largely because the equipment and specialists involved cost lots and lots of money.
Enter Microsoft Kinect, which capably captures a great deal of motion data and only costs about $400 (bundled with an Xbox 360). With the right software, Kinect could one day conceivably make basic biomechanical screening available to hundreds of thousands of youth athletes, catching problems that would otherwise go unnoticed and preventing injuries and permanent physical damage. It’s a fascinating speculation, and Will Carroll’s full article is definitely worth checking out.
Also, embedded in the Wired piece is a YouTube video (link) dating from Rick Peterson’s time as pitching coach of the A’s. You may have seen it before, but if not, I recommend it for three reasons:
1) You get an informative behind-the-curtains look at how biomechanical analysis technology works.
2) Tim Hudson in a motion-capture suit looks like a cyborg or something. Trust me. He looks really tough.
3) A narrator opens the video by portentously asserting that “[t]he throwing of a baseball is one of the most unnatural movements for the human body to make,” all while a super scary synth plays in the background — a super scary synth that continues for THE WHOLE 5-MINUTE VIDEO. This soundtrack really suggests “America’s Most Wanted crime reenactment montage,” but then the video is just Barry Zito wearing yoga pants and throwing a baseball into a net.
* I’m sure we’ll be talking about the Kinect more in this space, especially as Xbox 360 baseball games utilizing its technology start to be released. In my opinion the Kinect has a lot of promise for baseball titles, because unlike the Wii and the PlayStation Move, you don’t have to hold a potentially slippery controller in your hand while you’re pretending to whip a 96-mph fastball at your television. Which, to me, is a plus.