There are not necessarily different types of Kinect® hardware, as of the initial release of the Kinect® gaming system in 2010, but rather a primary device that interfaces with other hardware. The main piece of Kinect® hardware is a sensor device that includes both a microphone for capturing audio and a camera. This camera captures infrared light in a way that allows the system to recognize and track motion of humans within its field of vision. The sensor is then connected to other hardware that is able to utilize the information received by it, typically an Xbox 360® gaming device or a computer.
Kinect® hardware typically refers to the actual sensor device itself, which is commonly called the “Kinect® for Xbox 360®.” This device contains two different types of hardware technology, which are used together to allow the various features provided by the Kinect® to be experienced through a video game console. Proprietary software and firmware for the Kinect® hardware itself is also used to allow the data gathered by the sensor to be used in gaming and other interface applications.
Of the two systems within the Kinect® hardware, the camera and motion sensor combine to be considered the most revolutionary for gaming. This is basically an infrared camera that captures light transmitted by the Kinect® sensor. The light is emitted by the system that creates a grid in the environment in which the sensor is placed, which the camera in the Kinect® sensor device then captures. This data is used by software and firmware in the Kinect® system to create a three-dimensional image of the space in real time, isolating human figures to use their movements for gaming control.
In addition to this camera, a microphone is also found within the Kinect® hardware. This microphone is able to capture sound, isolating voices from ambient sound to provide users with options for communication through the gaming system and voice commands for the system. The Kinect® sensor device also includes a motorized base that rotates to allow the camera in the sensor to better capture any given environment.
While this Kinect® hardware is impressive, it is essentially just an input device with little extra functionality. This is why the device is typically connected to other hardware, such as an Xbox 360® or a computer. When connected to an Xbox 360® gaming console, the Kinect® device can be used for controller input on certain games, utilizing both motion sensing and voice recognition technology. Researchers in various labs have also utilized the Kinect® sensor and computer systems to create easy motion sensing hardware that can be used with a wide range of software programs.