The Kinect for Windows SDK is Microsoft's official solution for bringing the Kinect to the PC. The current SDK is aimed at enthusiasts and researchers--which is obviously fine for our purposes--but the capabilities of the API are significantly more limited than those provided by the XBox. However, the features that are included are well-designed and will work without configuration.


Should I Use the Kinect for Windows SDK?
Getting Started

Should I Use the Kinect for Windows SDK?

In short, if you meet the requirements, yes. Unless you would prefer to use another language (Python, Ruby, Java, etc) or platform, which are only compatible with OpenNI, you'll likely find that the simplicity of the SDK will get you up and running much more quickly.


Note: These are the official requirements published by Microsoft. The only hard-and-fast requirement is that you are running Windows 7. (Microsoft sells Windows 7 upgrades to students for just $29.99.)
  • Standalone Kinect Sensor (provided)
  • Windows 7 (32- or 64-bit)
  • Visual Studio 2010
    • Available for free, but you will be limited to programming in Visual C#/C++/Basic
  • Dual-core, 2.66GHz or faster processor
  • 2GB RAM, 4GB recommended


Microsoft provides a full list of features, but we've highlighted the important ones here.

Raw sensor streams
Direct, low-level access to the camera and depth sensor. Can be used to display camera feeds, as well as build more intensive gesture-recognition.
Skeletal tracking
Full-body motion tracking is provided directly by the API for up to two players. Each frame of data includes joint position information for the head, torso, and four limbs.
Speech recognition
Works surprisingly well, especially for limited sets of commands.


The Kinect for Windows SDK website provides a relatively useful readme for DIY-ers. We've also detailed the components you'll need here.

Kinect for Windows SDK

Download the appropriate version from Microsoft's website. Both the 32- and 64-bit versions should be compatible with Visual Studio.
Speech Recognition SDK

The Kinect SDK does not include any speech tools by default (just audio input), so you'll need to download the software packages listed below. Be sure to download the 32-bit versions, even if you use 64-bit versions of the other required software.

Coding4Fun Toolkit

Coding4Fun has developed a toolkit which provides simplified functions for many common tasks, such as converting data streams into video and working with skeleton tracking. Not strictly required, but recommended.
DirectX SDK

Again, not strictly required, but is required for some samples and graphically-intense applications.

Getting Started

The XBox Kinect uses a modified USB port that is able to supply unusually large amounts of power. You'll need an adapter to plug the Kinect into your computer. Once hooked up, if everything is installed correctly, you're all set!

Follow along with Channel 9's Kinect SDK Quickstarts. Watching the videos can get tedious, but unabridged text tutorials are available beneath the player.


Official Programming Guide
Code Walkthroughs

XBox Kinect