Microsoft hopes to vamp up its HealthVault and other health services by making it easier for users to do everything from tracking their caloric intake to counting their steps using their cell phones, according to researchers at a Microsoft forum on health care technology in Beijing. Microsoft is also investigating the potential of Xbox 360 units–which are cheaper than similar hospital equipment. But they are as powerful to feed and filter information from electronic medical records onto in-room display screens for patients and caregivers, according to Desney Tan, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research. Xbox units can also be used to let patients play games or go online, possibly by body gestures enabled by Microsoft’s upcoming Project Natal control system.Microsoft Research is also developing applications that can plug into services such as HealthVault to make it easier for users to access their health records.
There is one project called MyLife for Windows Mobile phones, is using built-in devices such as cameras, accelerometers, and microphones with the hopes of enabling users to log various health readings, from blood pressure to body weight, and monitor activities from exercising to eating. According to Eric Chang, director of technology strategy at Microsoft Research Asia has said that eventually users can retrieve food data–caloric content, food groups represented, potential allergy risks–based on a photograph alone. A first step might be scanning tags attached to various meals. Microsoft is one of the several companies building mobile health tools but it may have to work alongside one of its biggest rivals, Google Health, to make the still niche and more costly smartphone market viable.