The Kinect is a peripheral for the Xbox 360 console that allows a user to interact with the Xbox 360 without touching a controller. A general description of the Kinect is that it is a depth camera. This means that you can place objects in front of it, and it will compute the distance from it to the objects, thus creating a depth image. Therefore, the Kinect can provide the locations of objects in an image relative to itself, and this information can be used in a variety of projects. Also, the Kinect contains many components that, with slight modifications, can be used for new purposes. As an example, this project will show how the Kinect can be used as an infrared (IR) camera.
For a detailed description of how the Kinect works and how it can be used in different projects, I recommend that you read Making Things See by Greg Borenstein (http://shop.oreilly.com/product/06369200…). The image in Step 1 shows the components of the Kinect that are necessary to understand this project. The IR projector shines a grid of IR dots on the objects in front of it. We are not able to see the dots, but the IR camera can detect them. Using the pattern of dots on each object, the Kinect is able to compute the depth image. The final component is an RGB camera that is similar to a standard webcam.