Update: 4 January 2013 – With Christmas passing us by, I’ve noticed the surge of hits to this page. This tells me a few things. Most importantly, you now have this sexy innovative device that none of the other gaming platforms have been able to replicate. The XBox Kinect remains a hot item this holiday season and I’m happy to see the popularity the device still has.

With that said, this post was originally published in November 2010, when the device was first introduced to us. It’s time for a fresh new update of these tips. I really do hope these tips help you better enjoy your XBox Kinect. You might also like this article on The Evolution of Gaming.

What Is The Kinect & How Does It Work?

The Kinect connects directly to your XBox 360 and sits on top or below your television set to give a whole new level of game playing with Kinect-ready games. The Kinect sensor connects to a motorized base and is packed with a RGB camera, four microphones and a depth sensor.  The full body motion sensor identifies any movements your body makes. This includes your arms, legs, knees, hips, hands, wrists, head, etc. Once you begin playing, the Kinect creates a digital skeleton of you capturing your movements as you move left, right, jump, etc.

The device uses facial recognition, scanning your face and tying it to your Kinect ID. This technology helps make it easier to jump in and start playing. The microphones provide a sensor to recognize your voice, so you can call out commands to start playing your game, watch a movie, etc.

It’s important to note that the Kinect adds no additional functionality with games that aren’t specifically marked as “Kinect” on the front cover. So, to enjoy the device, you’ll need to get your hands on a XBox 360 Kinect game, which some of the Kinect bundles come with.

Four years and 75 million worldwide Wii sales later, Microsoft and Sony have now both released their high-tech answers to the Wii-mote, and they couldn’t be more different. Check out this Microsoft Kinect Review for more info.

Setup

You’ll need plenty of room to play Kinect. Setup the sensor between two to six feet off the floor and centered with your TV. Make sure there is no direct sunlight shining on the sensor or you and avoid placing it on your TV, XBox 360, in front of speakers or anywhere near something that vibrates or makes noise.

For your setup, you may need to rearrange your living room. Microsoft recommends you have atleast 6 feet when playing alone and a minimum of 8 feet when playing with an additional player. After I purchased the device last year, I spiked the ceiling fan while playing Kinect Sports. That was when I finally realized I needed to change my living room setup when playing the Kinect. The more room the better.

Gameplay Tips

Each player will need to be atleast 40 inches tall and ensure nothing is covering their face. Remove your hat, reflective glasses, etc. Also, it works best if you don’t have on baggy clothes. Microsoft also mentions that “some black clothing dyes may absorb infrared light, making it difficult for the Kinect to track you accurately.”

  • How to pause: pausing is simple, as I found. Just stand with your right arm to your side and hold your left arm at a 45 degree angle. Walking away from your play area also pauses the game.
  • How to take control when playing with two players: while in a menu, the person in control is the one whose hand is illuminated on the screen. To switch this, the player just needs to put their hand down and the other player needs to wave to take control.
  • Voice commands: when a microphone icon appears on the screen, you can use your voice to control the Kinect. Say “XBox” and read one of the available options on the screen. If you’re having troubles, you may just need to turn this feature on.
  • Mark barriers on the floor: A big aggravation I’ve had while playing is jumping and getting too close to the TV. Mark the line where you can’t cross while playing. You can use tape or anything to mark the spot.

Tip: Try to make subtle moves while playing the Kinect. If you make big moves all the time, it will take longer to switch positions & the Kinect will adapt and read the big moves as standard input. Making subtle moves the majority of time will help the Kinect react better to bigger movements. Tipster & source JGreen7 @ Kinect.net

Tips & Tricks

  • Set the device up at eye level or higher – results in maximum playing area. via Clemens @ 123Kinect
  • Calibrate multiple profiles with your Kinect ID in different lighting conditions – Navigate to the Kinect Hub -> choose your profile -> select Update and complete the poses.
  • Uh oh, my picture is blurry: Clean your Kinect lenses with a micro-fiber rag & change your lighting to energy saving bulbs to produce less heat. via Robb25j @ 123Kinect
  • Get Voice Control in Europe: Change your local settings on your XBox to United States. via Praise @ 123Kinect
  • Setup and use Video Connect
  • Calibrate your Audio Tuner for Speech Recognition & Chat: Press Guide on your controller, then select Kinect Tuner. Select Audio and follow the prompts to calibrate. The Kinect will test the background noise, speaker volume & microphone calibration.
  • Kinect can’t see me or is innacurate or sluggish: If Kinect has trouble with body tracking, press Guide on your controller and select Kinect Tuner. Select Tracking and you’ll be able to fix the tracking. You may want to reposition your Kinect, but the sensor will adjust the viewing angle, test the body tracking & identify if there are any issues tracking your movements.
  • Calibrate to fine-tune your Kinect to your play space: To calibrate, you’ll need on of the cards included with each game. You’ll hold this card as the Kinect scans multiple times from a few different positions. If you move the Kinect to a different position or room, you’ll want to ensure you run through the calibration.
  • Setup Auto Sign in with Kinect
  • Keep other people and animals out of view of the Kinect: If your dog runs in front of you, the Kinect gets confused very fast.

Cool Accessories

  • Zoom – play reduction lens for Kinect – $19.39 at Amazon
  • XBox 360 Kinect Floor Stand by PDP – $24.44 at Amazon
  • Kinect TV Mount Clip – $19.99 at Amazon
  • XBox 360 Kinect Wall Mount – $9.81 at Amazon
  • New Floor Stand For XBox 360 Kinect Sensor by CrazyOnDemandDigital – $29.99 at Amazon
  • Bracket for Kinect Sensor Bar – $5.99 at Amazon
  • CTA Digital Kinect Wall Mount and Clip – $12.01 at Amazon
  • DreamGEAR TriMount for XBox 360 – $22.30 at Amazon
  • KMD 360 Kinect Sensor TV Clip – $3 at Amazon
  • PRITECT Privacy Cover for XBox 360 Kinect Sensor – $14.99 at Amazon

Great Resources

  • DIY Kinect Hacking: follow along and reverse engineer USB
  • Kinect Hacks
  • Kinect Hacks – The Dashhacks Network
  • The Kinect Accelerator – for developers looking to innovate
  • Hack a Day – Kinect Hacks 

Choose the Right Games

Before dropping $50 or so for a game, make sure you do your homework. I prefer Gamespot and IGN to get an overall review score from their editors and game players, prior to going game shopping. Thanks to Gamespot, I’ve passed on poorly rated games such as Deca Sports and picked up the best rated games over the last year.

Do you have any tips I may have missed? Please do feel free to share.