Kinect, a motion-sensing input device for the promotion of learning and participation in the welfare sector

Text Leena Koskimäki
Merja Salminen

Kinect is a device that recognises speech and gestures, interprets the user’s actions and learns from the user. All interaction at the user interface takes place in ways natural to human beings: gestures, facial expressions and speech. The user interface of this motion-sensing device, developed by Microsoft, has been used by HAMK University of Applied Sciences in the development work conducted in the project Openness Accelerating Learning Networks (AVO2), more specifically, in its subproject 3D and mobile environments for participation and learning.

The special target of the development work at HAMK University of Applied Sciences has been the use of virtual and augmented reality applications in welfare studies, but the goals have also included the improvement of the participation possibilities of the users of new services as well as the development of service concepts. The environment in which our project’s development work has been conducted is the service centre for disabled people, Virvelinrannan vammaispalvelukeskus, offering daytime activities, housing services and support services for disabled people in the city of Hämeenlinna, Finland.

The simple user interface of Kinect facilitates the introduction of the new technology. This is why the user interface is particularly suitable for various user groups in the welfare sector who may not be able to use technically demanding user interfaces at all due to disabilities relating to their cognitive, motion, motor or sensory functions. The easy use of this user interface has facilitated its introduction among the mainly female welfare sector students participating in our pilots; most students involved in the pilots were new to playing computer games, to game consoles – and, in particular, to Kinect.

The natural user interface of the device produces a comprehensive, bodily experience for the user and this experience, in turn, structures new learning for the user. Kinect was seen to help actualise the project’s goals through its concrete visualisation power, or the way it structures – unlike traditional technologies – virtual, visual, experiential 3D environments for learning and participation. In practice during the first phase, our game pilots made use of commercially available Kinect games that were suitable for the user group at Virvelinranta. The pilots in the second project phase have tested applications developed by IT students at HAMK, applications that are more oriented to the particular needs of their special customer group.

The concrete pilots conducted in our project have created new information easy to apply to practice; they have offered us concrete experiences and also provided us with collaborative models for education and working life. The project has made information available to us about new possibilities of learning and participation for our target groups, which consist of teachers and students in the welfare sector as well as service providers and their customers in this sector. Learning environments have become more versatile and learning has been enriched through gamified solutions. Welfare sector students have been able to familiarise themselves with new technologies; they understand the role of technology in specialised work in the future. On the other hand, IT students have learned about the interconnection between Kinect and the promotion of health and wellbeing.

More information

You can monitor the progress of our project on the web at, and more information about the pilots is available from merja.salminen[at] and leena.koskimaki[at]