The Tech Behind the XBOX 360 Kinect- Is it Science or Magic? *Hint- It’s Science!*


The new XBOX 360 Kinect is a game-changer when it comes to how we play our games. At first glance, Kinect looks like an overly wide webcam and indeed an RGB camera is one of its components. What sets Kinect apart is that it also incorporates a depth sensor and multi-directional microphone array to create a plethora of additional features and functionality. Where a camera can merely track movements in two dimensional space, Kinect can track movement in three dimensions and perform facial and voice recognition. Furthermore, Kinect connects to its base on a motorized pivot which allows for a certain degree of movement

The two stars of the show are the depth sensor and RGB camera. While we all might have an idea of how an ordinary camera works, the idea of a depth sensor is definitely out of the ordinary. The way the depth sensor works is by firing an infrared laser into the room and subsequently using an image sensor to gather information upon the reflection of the infrared beams. Data, including the amount of light reflected back as well as the time it takes the laser to return to Kinect, is compiled to compose a 3D map of the room. It’s very similar to a bat’s use of echolocation in navigating the environment despite having poor eyesight

When the depth sensor and RGB camera work together it allows Kinect to track up to six people passively and two people for actual motion analysis. In simpler terms it means that while it may be able to recognize six people at once it’s really only designed for two people to be playing games through it. When Kinect monitors two people and performs its motion analysis, it’s able to extract detailed information including recognition of up to 20 joints for each player right down to individual fingers in certain instances.

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