May 2017

Microsoft Kinect finds new life helping rehab patients heal at home

Why it matters to you

Ever tried to figure out how to do an exercise from a piece of paper? Patients using Reflexion Health’s Vera solution get real-time feedback to get it right.

The Microsoft Kinect may be more or less defunct[1] when it comes to gaming, but it’s getting a second life as a medical device. Reflexion Health[2] uses it as part of the kit it delivers to rehabilitation patients, so they can do physical therapy exercises at home with every knee bend or wrist turn captured on camera.

“The notion of being able to do their physical therapy in their jammies with no one around, that feels like a wonderful thing,” Dr. Joe Smith, the company’s CEO, told Digital Trends. He describes himself as a “geeky engineer turned geeky doctor.” The Vera Solution uses the Kinect’s infrared and motion-capture technology, along with feedback from an avatar and clinicians. And it’s no game: The system is FDA-approved and certified as a Class II medical device.

Before surgery, patients receive the kit. It comes with a 4G SIM card, as some senior patients don’t have Wi-Fi. “We make a ton of measurements,” said Dr. Smith. “We’re estimating joint position and angle and limb velocity 30 times a second, so we can do a pretty good job of the level of disability that patients have pre-operatively.” Right now, Vera is mainly used for people who’ve had hip or knee replacements. Post-op, the doctor can prescribe exercises from a broad list of options.

If a patient completes 14 of the 15 exercises, the doctor or physical therapist can watch the video of the skipped exercise. Maybe it’s causing too much pain or it’s too complicated. Either way, the clinician can teleconference in through the system to talk to the patient.

Thus far, about 600 patients have used the Vera system. “Patients are much more compliant to their prescribed physical therapy regimen than anyone’s ever been able to demonstrate previously,” said Dr. Smith. He said self-reported rates range between 15 to 40 percent, while patients using the Kinect complete between 75 to 80 percent of their exercises. Whether they feel beholden to the anthropomorphized avatar Vera or just know their doctor is watching, Dr. Smith said participants show up for their in-home appointments. It also means patients don’t have to rely on getting a ride to an appointment and doctors can focus on those who need the most help.

Reflexion is branching out beyond physical therapy, too. It’s part of Digital Health Corp., which On May 31 announced the acquisition of Constant Therapy, a firm that develops apps for traumatic brain injury, stroke, aphasia, and learning-disorder patients.

“It’s incredibly valuable to be a with a good physical therapist or occupational therapist or cognitive speech-language therapist, but they can only spend so much time,” said Dr. Smith. ‘There’s nothing higher on your priority list than getting better and you’ve got lots of time in front of you. Our goal is to give you tools to help you do something in the interim that may accelerate your recovery or get to a higher plateau.”


  1. ^ defunct (
  2. ^ Reflexion Health (

Sean Spicer suggests ‘covfefe’ may be Trump code word

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer Holds Daily Press Briefing At White House

Will we ever know the truth?

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

I don’t know what the nuclear codes are and neither do you.

For all we know, the word “covfefe” may be a part of them. 

This became the word du jour on Wednesday, after the president tweeted[1] this late on Tuesday night: “Despite the negative press covfefe.”

Sanguine minds might have thought he meant “coverage.” The president, however, offered an amused tweet[2] on Wednesday morning: “Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!”

But then came White House press secretary Sean Spicer. It was surely inevitable he would be be forced to address it in Wednesday’s off-camera White House press briefing.

Asked whether the president’s tweet seemed a touch incoherent, he replied[3]: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”

A large group of people surely believes he meant “coverage.” Does this mean that a select group knows something more?

One might have imagined that Spicer would have scorned the assembled throng of (mainly) fake-newsers and asked them whether they had truly never tweeted something nonsensical. But no. 

Instead, we are left to speculate that “covfefe” may be some sort of secret code that might mean: “Where’s my KFC?” or “Attack North Korea.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for further enlightenment. 

What, though, if “covfefe” was an acronym? 

I can come up with the following possibilities. I feel sure each is possible.

How about this concerning a publication that Trump especially dislikes: Come on, Vanity Fair is Effeminate, Freakish and Execrable.[4]

Or the very topical[5]: Climate Onanism Versus Flat Earth Freedom Executives.    

But I think I have it. I really think I have it: Commanding Officer Views France and Europe as Frigging Enemies.

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.[6]

Special Reports: CNET’s in-depth features in one place.[7]


  1. ^ tweeted (
  2. ^ an amused tweet (
  3. ^ replied (
  4. ^ a publication (
  5. ^ very topical (
  6. ^ Technically Incorrect (
  7. ^ Special Reports (

Steve Ballmer: we should have turned Microsoft into a “world-class hardware company”

Steve Ballmer

Talking at Recode’s oddly-named code conference[2], former Microsoft CEO expressed one big regret from his time at the company: that they didn’t get into hardware soon enough.

“I was too slow to recognize the need for new capability, and particularly in hardware,” he told Kara Swisher. “I wish we’d built the capability to be a world-class hardware company.”

The desire to get into hardware was motivated by two things. First, because even as a software company, Ballmer said that “one of the new expressions of software is essentially hardware.” This is a theme that’s been alluded to by Microsoft’s Surface division on many occasions: Surface hardware is designed in tandem with, and to be a reflection of, Windows software, with each part showcasing the other. After early stumbles, the Surface team has produced a number of products that have been well-received and it appears to be carving out a decent niche for itself.

Second, Ballmer spoke of a long-term observation made by Microsoft Research: “At the end of the day there’s only going to be silicon and the cloud: everything in the client is going to get built into silicon, and everything else will be in the cloud.” This was a “wake-up call,” and it drove the thinking behind the “devices and services” mantra that Ballmer promoted near the end of his tenure as Microsoft CEO—and that his replacement, Satya Nadella, quickly dropped[3].

Ballmer contrasted the tardiness in the hardware world with the other side of that “devices and services” vision: the cloud. In the cloud space, Microsoft has developed not just new products, but a considerable capability in operating data centers and software services at an enormous scale, new approaches of developing software to iterate quickly, and new ways of selling, with subscriptions and usage-based billing instead of Microsoft’s traditional licensing.

In hardware, and in particularly in the phone, the company failed to develop this new capability. “The thing that we missed with phone is that we tried to use the old techniques, such as software licensing. The same techniques were never going to get us there,” Ballmer explained. “We had the wrong monetization model, we had the wrong delivery model, because we didn’t build a new capability.”

With the purchase of Nokia’s phone division[4], Microsoft did, belatedly, try to expand that hardware development capability to include smartphones. But the Nokia that was purchased didn’t have a product pipeline that exemplified that idea of hardware as an “expression” of software, with the company’s stable of 2014 and 2015 product launches being for the most part uninspired and uninspiring. Under Nadella, the hardware division was gutted[5] and the mobile ambitions drastically scaled back[6]. We’ve heard that even the more successful Surface division was impacted by these cuts, and that Microsoft’s slowness to update the Surface Pro and Surface Book[7] lines was due in no small part to a shortage of staff with hardware expertise.

In the rest of the interview, Ballmer talks at length about his USAFacts[8] project, designed to act as a kind of Form 10-K for government, giving taxpayers a much better view of how government both raises and spends money. He also talks about his LA Clippers. Ballmer is on good form in the interview, relaxed and engaging, while still retaining his trademark energy.


  1. ^ 1 posters participating (
  2. ^ Talking at Recode’s oddly-named code conference (
  3. ^ quickly dropped (
  4. ^ purchase of Nokia’s phone division (
  5. ^ was gutted (
  6. ^ drastically scaled back (
  7. ^ update the Surface Pro and Surface Book (
  8. ^ USAFacts (

Everyone uses Gmail, but not everyone knows these awesome tips and tricks

Between Labs, extensions, and settings, there’s a plethora of ways that you can customize your Gmail experience and tweak how emails are handled. Below of some of our favorite methods for managing time and giving Gmail an extra boost when it comes to organization.

Send and archive in one step

Here’s a trick to save a lot of time. First, click the gear icon and choose Settings from the resulting drop-down menu. Find the Send and Archive section and check the box beside Show “Send & Archive” button in reply. This adds a new button when you’re replying to an email. Clicking it will allow you to send your response and automatically archive the email, thus removing it from your inbox. It’s a godsend for those who receive endless amounts of email, and one that keeps your inbox free of clutter.

Enable and disable tabs

Gmail has three tabs — Primary, Social, and Promotion — and organizes your emails for you automatically. But did you know you can customize these tabs? If you want to do so, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and choose Configure inbox from the drop-down menu. This allows you to add new tabs, such as Updates and Forums, or remove any tabs that you don’t like or want. It’s a handy bit of auto-organization for when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

See more with the Compact setting

When you click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of Gmail, one of the first things you’ll see in the resulting drop-down menu is an option to switch between Cozy, Comfortable, and Compact viewing modes. Switching to Compact eradicates a good deal of space, allowing you to see more email information on each line. It’s a good setting to go with if you want to maximize your efficiency and see as much information as possible in a single glance.

Take back an unfortunate email

Gmail "Undo Send" Feature

Whenever you send an email in Gmail, you’ll notice a yellow box that says the email was sent. If you catch it fast enough, however, you can actually cancel the email while it’s in the process of being sent. If it has already been sent, this option turns in Undo Send, which allows you to correct your mistake with a couple clicks. If you don’t see the feature, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and select Settings from the drop-down menu. Then, check the box beside Enable Undo Send in the Undo Send section. Here, you can also set a 5-, 10-, 20-, or 30-second cancellation period.

Send money instantly

Whenever you start to compose an email in Gmail, you can hit the dollar sign[1] — or the pound sign, if you’re located in the United Kingdom — to use that email as a vehicle for sending money. It allows you to set an amount and input, or choose a payment method. When the recipient gets the email, they can “activate” the payment and the transaction will occur. Could you just use PayPal? Yes, but this option is just as useful when it comes to making quick, small payments.

Use Smart Reply to save time on responses

In the mobile version of Gmail, there is currently a feature called Smart Reply. It uses some of Google’s AI tech to automatically create a few quick responses (somewhat modeled after your email behavior) that you can immediately send. These range from a basic “thanks!” to more complex questions based on the email you are responding to. It doesn’t always work, but for simple responses, it can help you save a lot of time on your mobile device.

Save space with Drive

If you can’t fit a file on an email[2] or prefer not mess around with attachments, use Google Drive instead. Every Compose window comes equipped with a Drive icon, which allows you to quickly attach Drive files from within your browser. It’s also handy if you need to share files that aren’t stored on the device you’re using… as long as Drive is one of the common storage options.

Synergize with LinkedIn

One of the great extensions to use in the business world is Rapportive[3], a Gmail extension that links the sender’s contact information with social media, specifically LinkedIn. Open an email from someone with a LinkedIn account and the tool will immediately show their profile information in a sidebar, along with links to their various social media accounts. It’s one of the best networking tools available if you regularly use Gmail.

Use Canned Responses to save even more time

Gmail Labs are experimental extensions that you can enable for free. Labs don’t always stick around, but Canned Responses has been on the block for years, so we feel confident recommending it. Head over to the gear icon, choose Settings, and click the Labs tab. One of the labs should say Canned Responses. Enable it, and you can create email templates that you can immediately copy into an email and tweak as needed. It’s ideal for customer service or tracking down leads.

Delegate some of your emails

Gmail offers a service that allows you to set up a series of delegates[4]. These delegates have the ability to read and respond to your emails, and even manage your contacts, although they can’t chat or change your settings. Setting up delegates is useful if you are a busy professional and need an employee or team member to step in and check the latest responses when you simply don’t have enough time.

Try IFTTT configurations

IFTTT or “If This Then That” is a smart device platform that allows you to customize a variety of responses and scenes for your smart home. It also works with a lot of other things, including Gmail. Here are some examples of the IFTTT ideas[5] already created by people and ready to be used. With the right recipe, you can save files directly to Drive, automatically sync Evernote and Todoist, trigger notifications, and carry out a bunch of other useful actions. Find the options that are best for your life, and you can transform your Gmail experience into something twice as useful.


  1. ^ Gmail, you can hit the dollar sign (
  2. ^ can’t fit a file on an email (
  3. ^ Rapportive (
  4. ^ to set up a series of delegates (
  5. ^ Here are some examples of the IFTTT ideas (
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