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What Are the Different Types of Kinect® Sensors?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

Each Kinect® peripheral has three different types of sensors. The primary sensor that the Kinect® is known for is an infrared (IR) camera capable of examining points of light to create a depth map. These primary Kinect® sensors are used to map an area, and the people within it, in three dimensions. Each device also has a traditional camera that creates a red, green and blue (RGB) video output. The final type of Kinect® sensors present in each device are four microphones arranged into an array.

The Kinect® is a peripheral device used to manipulate video games without the need for a physical controller. A number of different Kinect® sensors work together to make this possible. Earlier motion capture peripherals only tracked movement, but the Kinect® is also capable of generating a depth map and recognizing the source of different sounds within a room. The inputs from these Kinect® sensors may also be used separately for different functions.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In order for Kinect® sensors to create a depth map, each device is also equipped with an infrared projector. This component is capable of shining thousands of points of light onto the playing area. These points of light are invisible to the naked eye, but the infrared camera present in each Kinect® is able to see them and then calculate time of flight to create a three-dimensional representation of the room.

The other visual sensor present in each Kinect® is a traditional RGB camera. This camera creates video at a resolution of 640x480 and 30 frames per second (FPS). By combining this visual data with the depth map provided by the IR sensor, the Kinect® can create a three-dimensional representation of a space. This combined information is also used to estimate the skeletal structure of a player, which is how the peripheral registers movement to generate game inputs. The video can also be used separately from the depth map for video conferencing and taking still pictures.

A microphone array is the final type of sensor present in each Kinect® device. By examining the difference in the sounds picked up by each of the four microphones in the array, the Kinect® can determine approximately where a sound came from. This information may be used to lock voice control to one player or filter out background noise. The microphone array can also be used separately for voice communication and other similar functions.

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Discussion Comments


@jcraig - You're right about making games that use the connect. When it was released, there were a few, but they weren't big name games. They were basically just there as a demonstration, and most of the gameplay involved leaning left or right.

I know they came out with a few dancing based games, and I've been told the Kinect is good at picking up subtle body movements. As far as real action based game go, though, I don't see a lot of use for the Kinect. Maybe that will change in the future, though.

At the very least, it is an interesting novelty, and has paved the way for more developments in the future.


One of my friends got a Kinect when it first came out. They are pretty amazing. You can scroll through menus with body movements and give voice commands.

We did a lot of things to try to fool it. We figured out it couldn't pick out a face if one person stood behind the other with your heads together. I think that is partly because it considers body shape, too. I saw a video of people who tried to use pictures of other people in front of their faces, and it couldn't figure that out either, which wasn't surprising since the paper wouldn't have given as much of an infrared signal.


I never play video games to have used a Kinect, but when I first heard about it, I thought it sounded interesting. It seems like it would be hard to make a lot of games that specifically used the Kinect, though. Even though it could track you moving around a room, it would still be hard to make a game that required people to walk around, since not everyone has a lot of space.

I thought when the Kinect came out, I read something about it having face recognition software, too. Is that true? How well does it work?


I have always wanted to try using a Kinect. It seems like it would be a lot of fun. Has anyone here ever been around one? Do they ever get confused or have trouble doing what you want them to do?

I was also wondering if anyone had seen some of the projects people had made from Kinects? They are really neat. Of the projects I remember seeing when the device first came out, someone connected the sensor to a remote control car and programmed it to recognize when the car was getting close to an obstacle and then having it steer the car in a different direction. That was quite a while ago, so I'm sure there have been more since then.

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