A trio of Johns Hopkins students has adapted Microsoft's Kinect sensor for use in a system that would prevent heatstroke related deaths of children trapped in hot cars.

The students, Anshul Mehra, Yejin Kim, and Jeffery Kamei, started the project for a two-month senior mechanical design course at Johns Hopkins University. They were tasked with coming up with a device to combat a major health risk, and chose heatstroke-related deaths in children due to being accidentally left in an overheated vehicle. There have been 527 such deaths in the U.S. since 1998.

After looking at studies that said that the devices designed to alert parents of their children being trapped in a hot car currently on the market are unreliable, they came up with a plan to use the Kinect to detect the motion of a child trapped in a vehicle. They specifically chose Kinect because its infrared sensor made it less likely to be interfered with by motion outside of the vehicle. The students envision the system eventually being linked to an alarm, or even a service like OnStar, to alert parents that they have forgotten a child in their car.

The students hope that someday their experimental work on this project could be carried out by a commercial company that could make it available to consumers.

(Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins, pictured above (left to right): Anshul Mehra, Yejin Kim, Jeffery Kamei, and faculty advisor Eileen McDonald)