How Microsoft Kinect Works

The Kinect Sensor

The Microsoft Kinect sensor as shown in a press briefing in June 2010
The Microsoft Kinect sensor as shown in a press briefing in June 2010
Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images

The innovative technology behind Kinect is a combination of hardware and software contained within the Kinect sensor accessory that can be added to any existing Xbox 360. The Kinect sensor is a flat black box that sits on a small platform, placed on a table or shelf near the television you're using with your Xbox 360. Newer Xbox 360s have a Kinect port from which the device can draw power, but the Kinect sensor comes with a power supply at no additional charge for users of older Xbox 360 models. For a video game to use the features of the hardware, it must also use the proprietary layer of Kinect software that enables body and voice recognition from the Kinect sensor [source: Rule].

There's a trio of hardware innovations working together within the Kinect sensor:


  • Color VGA video camera - This video camera aids in facial recognition and other detection features by detecting three color components: red, green and blue. Microsoft calls this an "RGB camera" referring to the color components it detects.
  • Depth sensor - An infrared projector and a monochrome CMOS (complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensor work together to "see" the room in 3-D regardless of the lighting conditions.
  • Multi-array microphone - This is an array of four microphones that can isolate the voices of the players from the noise in the room. This allows the player to be a few feet away from the microphone and still use voice controls.

A further look at the technical specifications for Kinect reveal that both the video and depth sensor cameras have a 640 x 480-pixel resolution and run at 30 FPS (frames per second). The specifications also suggest that you should allow about 6 feet (1.8 meters) of play space between you and the Kinect sensor, though this could vary depending on where you put the sensor [source: Microsoft Store].

The Kinect hardware, though, would be nothing without the breakthrough software that makes use of the data it gathers. Leap forward to the next page to read about the "brain" behind the camera lens.