Perfect for creating sensory environments.  Helpful if you know anything about hacking.  The camera can be used with Scratch and with Glowdoodle as well as countless other things I have not come across.


In early November 2010, Microsoft introduced the Kinect. In essence it is a hands-free motion detection device for gaming systems. As such it can detect motion with a variety of sensors. The idea, of course, is to directly challenge the handheld device of the Wii.

The sensors include one camera, one infrared transmitter, one infrared receiver and four microphones. The visible light camera is a full-color light capture device that sits between the infrared emitter and detector.  The infrared detectors are designed mainly to capture and, with the built in processor, determine depth. The color camera to capture the light ranges in normal human vision. Because Kinect also includes an infrared emitter the device is able to work in near darknes.

The arrangement of sensors is horizontal in a case. The case is meant to be mounted below the display of the gaming system. The base also includes a motor that causes the device to pivot up and down, tracking the motions of the players.

Kinect Field of View
Kinect’s field of view is fifty-seven (57°) degrees horizontally and forty-three (43°) degrees vertically. The bar can tilt plus or minus twenty-seven (27°) degrees. The depth sensor can detect a range of four (4ft) feet to eleven and a half (11.5ft) feet or 1.2 meters to 3.5 meters. The infrared range camera resolution is at 320×240 16-bit depth at 30 frames per second. The color camera is  640×480 32-bit color also at 30 frames per second.

Audio is via four (4) microphones at 16-bit at 16 kHz.

Power Requirements
The Kinect requires 12 volts DC to operate; it consumes 12Watts of power during operation. This is far greater than the 5 volts and 2.5Watts designed into the USB port in most home computers. This means the Kinect has an additional transformer type wall-plug power supply. Fortunately the data stream is well within the ranges used by USB.

Connection to USB
Because of the power requirements and the differences between that and the interface to the xBox (or any other computer) the Kinect uses a proprietary connector and an adapter to USB. The pinout of this connector (and USB) are in the photos below.

All of the above specifications are from Microsoft and should be viewed as a loose guide to the device’s capabilities.

Microsoft Kinect

Microsoft Kinect

Source: Microsoft

Problems Hacking the Kinect

Initially Microsoft objected to attempts to hack the device, but after Adafruit Industries offered an award of $5,000 for the first third-party open-source driver for the Kinect, Microsoft changed it’s position and declared the technology open.

The winner of the prize, one Hector Martín, wrote an open-source Linux driver to interpret and capture the motion data from the Kinect.

This does not mean Micrsosoft is encouraging disassembling the machine and hacking into the built-in processor. It does mean Microsoft has no problem with users intercepting the outgoing data stream.

It should be noted that at this point in time only the most dedicated hacker is likely to be able to make much use of Hector’s hack, but as time goes on simpler interfaces will grow out of Mr. Martin’s research

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