What Is a Kinect® Controller?

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  • Written By: D. Grey
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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A Kinect® controller is an accessory for Microsoft's Xbox 360® game console that can sense the user's motion via three cameras, allowing the user to control the gaming system with bodily movements. It continuously projects an infrared light pattern and uses range imaging technology to decipher a three dimensional image, including the player. The accessory is in the shape of a long bar attached to a motorized base. The Kinect® also has four microphones for voice commands and voice chat over Xbox LIVE®, allowing the player to communicate without the use of a headset. For optimal performance with a Kinect® controller, players should have approximately 20 square feet (2.2 square meters) of available space.

The Kinect® technology is capable of sensitive detection of the players, including recognizing gestures with the hands and body, as well as facial recognition. Since the Kinect® controller uses more power than the USB ports on an Xbox 360® can provide, it uses a unique power supply cable. An adapter is required for use with versions of the Xbox 360® that were manufactured before the release of the Xbox 360® S model, which has a port specifically for the Kinect®.


First announced on 1 June 2009 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the Kinect® controller was still known by its development code name, “Project Natal.” Microsoft displayed three demo games to illustrate the Kinect's® ability to target 48 skeletal points on a person, with up to four individuals using the device at the time. The following year at E3, Microsoft announced the accessory's official name and confirmed a release date.

The Kinect® controller was officially released in November of 2010, along with 17 compatible video games. Microsoft had a $5 million US dollar (USD) advertising budget for the device, more than was spent to advertise the Xbox 360® console itself. Considered a commercial success, the Kinect® sold 8 million units in the first two months after its release, earning a Guinness World Record for the “fastest selling consumer electronics device.”

The Kinect® proved to be popular outside of the gaming community as well and has been used for a multitude of unintended purposes, including to control robots and to perform 3D archeological scanning. An official software development kit (SDK) for the Kinect® was released by Microsoft on 16 June 2011 containing drivers for use with Windows® 7. The SDK allows developers to create Kinect-powered software with a variety of programming languages, including C++, C# and Visual Basic.


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