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Novartis and Microsoft test Kinect MS tool

The partners have a proof-of-concept for a system that could measure the condition's symptoms

Novartis 

Novartis has teamed up with Microsoft to see if the software giant's Kinect movement detection system can be applied to quantify multiple sclerosis symptoms. 

The Assess MS research project aims to use the Xbox gaming system's Kinect technology to overcome some of the limitations of current MS tests, which tend to be somewhat subjective.

The work that would become Assess MS has been going on for the last two years, but it was only last month that Microsoft revealed it has a proof-of-concept system and provided an insight into its work with Novartis.

This involved computer scientists within the firm's Technology and Research organisation looking to apply 'machine learning', a branch of artificial intelligence, to MS.

Vas Narasimhan, global head of development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said: “Novartis is leveraging digital technologies to transform patient care and drug development.  “We are excited about our collaboration with Microsoft Research to develop Assess MS, a more consistent way to measure motor dysfunctions caused by multiple sclerosis, which could lead to the development of better therapies and care for patients.”

Researchers involved in the project found that the results of movement tests could differ between doctors, or the same doctor might give a different rating on two different days.

Abigail Sellen, a principal researcher in the Human Experience and Design group at Microsoft's Cambridge, UK, lab, said: “The clinicians that we worked with really care about their patients. They really want what's best for them, and even the best neurologist will admit that when they use these rating scales, it's pretty coarse-grained.

“They know that there's a lot of variability, even in their own judgments, over time.” The project's aim is to use the computer vision found in the Kinect system to provide more consistent readings of patient symptoms and give doctors an additional tool.

To do that the team has been working on new algorithms to transform the Kinect depth camera, which is more usually used to pick up the sweeping gestures of a living room video game, into something capable of detecting much subtler movements.

To assess its practical application Novartis and Microsoft involved a number of clinical partners, working with clinicians at University Hospital Basel, University Hospital Bern and VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam. Microsoft says the next step is to test Assess MS in practice and see if it can be used in clinical trials for MS and, potentially, other similar diseases.

7th March 2016

From: Research

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