How Kinect Works

Today’s launch of Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 could change the gaming landscape completely. Whereas Nintendo Wii brought the idea of effective motion detection and control to the mainstream gaming industry, Microsoft is ready to take the idea a big step forward. As we all anxiously await the launch event today, Wired has an interesting piece on how Microsoft is improving on motion detection technology to deliver the same level of accuracy and reliability that a regular handheld controller offers, if not more.

Kinect relies on depth mapping to determine an object’s location in a field. Much like sonar, the unit measures the time it takes for light to bounce of the object and return to the source. It creates a 3D visualization of the object this way. This method offers greater reliability than older techniques, which relied on color and texture differences to determine the location and nature of an object. In that model, the results can be thrown off by low contrast situations, like wearing a shirt the same color as the wall behind you. Depth mapping also doesn’t rely on external light sources to measure anything. Kinect will ostensibly work in a pitch black room, because it is generating its own “light pings.”

Once the device has data to process, the processor crunches the data to make it work. It differentiates between faces, limbs, and other environmental aspects of the field, as well as recognize people and remembers who they are when they step back in the field.

The audio capabilities on Kinect are also worth mention. It responds to audio commands, but it doesn’t use the familiar noise-cancelling/isolation technologies employed in mobile smartphone devices. In order to accommodate voice control throughout the field cone, Kinect manages to filter out sound while using a wide field microphone that picks up and filters all the noise in the room.

Microsoft and PrimeSense have teamed up to try and revolutionize the gaming industry in a way the Wii only hoped to ultimately accomplish. It may carry a hefty price tag for a peripheral ($150 in the US), but it’s definitely packing the technology deserving of the price. The tech is there, but will Microsoft reach the predicted 5 million units sold from now until Christmas? The tech won’t be the only factor in the equation. The quality of the games that Kinect will work with will likely be the deciding factor in all of this. Wii suffered early on due to this issue, and as the quality of the software improved, sales skyrocketed. Only time (and game reviewers) will tell if Microsoft learned this important lesson from Nintendo.

Image Credit: Wired

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28 Comments

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sexypeperodri said,
I heard it doesn't recognize dark skinned people. That is a flop right there.

Oh, I think that was an episode of the cancelled television sitcom "Better off Ted"

sexypeperodri said,
I heard it doesn't recognize dark skinned people. That is a flop right there.

Well, there you go. There's an article for that, so you heard good.

Wow, the reviews have been all over the place. I wonder if bloggers/reviewers every try to understand context and targets when they review ish. Development of a product from idea to market should be considered as well... to understand the problems conquered would add much to their 'reviews'. For instance, the original prototype cost $30k... to get some version of the dream working for $150 is quite impressive in 3 yrs. is very very cool. They should get that team working on Surface.

Anyways, thanks for the article. Very cool stuff. There's so much more to discuss reagarding the software side. It's nothing short of impressive.

majg said,
Wow, the reviews have been all over the place. I wonder if bloggers/reviewers every try to understand context and targets when they review ish. Development of a product from idea to market should be considered as well... to understand the problems conquered would add much to their 'reviews'. For instance, the original prototype cost $30k... to get some version of the dream working for $150 is quite impressive in 3 yrs. is very very cool. They should get that team working on Surface.

Anyways, thanks for the article. Very cool stuff. There's so much more to discuss reagarding the software side. It's nothing short of impressive.

That would he awesome @ surface. Looks so epic.

Kinect adventures has pretty decent graphics. It's powered by the unreal engine. I did not notice any lag on my elite system. Even with two people playing.

+Ichigo+ said,
Kinect adventures has pretty decent graphics. It's powered by the unreal engine. I did not notice any lag on my elite system. Even with two people playing.

Not to mention the kinect Adventures games were built by former Nintendo juggernaut, Rare.
Good buy by Microsoft. the Rare folks do great work.

+Ichigo+ said,
Kinect adventures has pretty decent graphics. It's powered by the unreal engine. I did not notice any lag on my elite system. Even with two people playing.

More, more, give up more, mine is coming in the mail today... I wanted to hear that it was better then you expected. Because my expectations are very low.

jimmyfal said,

More, more, give up more, mine is coming in the mail today... I wanted to hear that it was better then you expected. Because my expectations are very low.

Not giving more info. You will just ave to wait and see for yourself. You will enjoy it.

+Ichigo+ said,
Kinect adventures has pretty decent graphics. It's powered by the unreal engine. I did not notice any lag on my elite system. Even with two people playing.

yeah, my kids and i are enjoying it for sure. its a hell of a workout as well jumping around. I *REALLY* like the fact we can just swap out and take turns without having to do the dashboard flipping around and logging in and out

I think I might have to get one of these. Looks like it could be fun.

I wonder, however, is there any processing power left over for a game with decent graphics after all the real-time movement number crunching has been taken care of? We're talking about 2005 technology, here.

They've been saying it takes single digit processing power. The software running the number crunching makes assumptions about motions, throws out ones that aren't legit, and can anticipate ones that are coming.

I mean, consider a racing game. It knows where the corners are, and can have a pretty good idea of what how you're going to move before you move. If you do something erratic, it probably just ignores it, or replaces it with an assumed action.

Shadrack said,
I think I might have to get one of these. Looks like it could be fun.

I wonder, however, is there any processing power left over for a game with decent graphics after all the real-time movement number crunching has been taken care of? We're talking about 2005 technology, here.

Same question. I remember reading something a few months back saying having this cut back on the processing power and graphics significantly.

ILikeTobacco said,

Same question. I remember reading something a few months back saying having this cut back on the processing power and graphics significantly.

Yes, there were reports of that. However, how many of those reports were from people who had hands on experience with the device, from people who were developing with the device and had to scale back their quality because the device was using too much processing power, or was it speculation that it must be bad and quality will suffer because it is new tech and not from the media's tech darlings?

Got mine last night at midnight. It's better than what i was expecting it to be. Should be real fun with my kids as well. Hopefully they have some good titles that support the kinect soon.

That is actually pretty neat how that works. Too bad I have no interest in buying one for myself.

Gilly said,
I like how they have an N64 in the image.

LOL ! I was wondering why it was there... Maybe Kinect was for N64 ?

Gilly said,
I like how they have an N64 in the image.

And a retro cell phone, PDA and ancient looking beige box PC

Oh, and a robot arm