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The Kinect is the name of Microsoft’s special motion sensor cameras that were initially designed for the company’s Xbox consoles but eventually evolved to function with Windows PCs for a variety of interactive experiences.

The first Kinect sensor was release in late-2010 as an accessory for the Xbox 360 console. It was used primarily for motion and dance video game franchises such as Zumba, Just Dance, and Dance Central though it also supported voice commands for the main Xbox 360 UI.

The second Kinect sensor came out in late-2013 and was bundled with the Xbox One console. This second generation Kinect featured greater motion and voice detection capability and enabled users to log into their Xbox One via facial recognition or voice. At launch, users could use the Kinect to control their Xbox One dashboard and open and close games and apps with hand gestures though this functionality was eventually disabled to give more processing power to video games. Xbox One consoles also began shipping without the Kinect included in the box after gamers complained about buying something that they never used and Microsoft gradually phased the accessory out with a USB adaptor required to connect it to the newer Xbox One S and Xbox One X consoles. Popular Xbox One Kinect games include Xbox Fitness, Kinect Sports Rivals, FRU, and Dance Central Spotlight.

Both the first and second generation Kinects were used by developers for a wide variety of projects ranging from art installations and spaces to even scanning baggage at airports. A version of the Xbox One Kinect was released especially for the Windows market though it was basically identical to the console version with the main difference being its USB connectivity as opposed to the Xbox One console cable.

The third generation Kinect, the Azure Kinect, is designed for health care, robotics, and retail instead of gaming. It features a 360-degree seven-microphone array and incorporates AI sensors and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The Azure Kinect initially launched in mid-2020 in the United States and Chine and rolled out to other regions in early-2020.

Kinect Highlights

  • More than 5 Kinect games worth playing on Xbox One
  • Check out this stunning video performance created with Kinect point cloud data
  • Xbox One X’s marketing is still deceiving consumers about support for Kinect
  • Kinect used in gamified therapy to ward off Alzheimer’s disease
  • Microsoft confirms the Xbox One Kinect Adapter is no longer being made