Colin Honigman /

Creative Technologist

2012, Dec-

Kinect Starter's Guide

So you want a Kinect?

First of all, the Kinect is really just a slick package of sensors all set up for you. When you aren't using it with an XBox you are simply turning on the different sensors and accessing the data they collect. A Kinect breaks down like this.

Many people don't realize that the Kinect has both an IR Camera and a regular RGB Camera which can be accessed and used simultaneously. Here is a very in depth paper on how they can be used together to recognize an open and closed hand.

There are many different Kinect tutorials out there but it seems like you really need to pick and choose which parts to follow. Mac and Windows set ups are very different so we will focus on Mac, because if you have Windows you can just get the official Microsoft SDK which will give you access to a lot of great stuff. On a Mac the setup can be a little frustrating so hopefully this guide will get you started having fun with your Kinect as soon as possible.


Now it can be tempting to just find an installation guide and follow it as soon as possible but even doing a quick search will show you that there are a lot of different instructions. So here I have compiled a set of the easiest by far. Again this is for Mac users only, I have never setup a Kinect on a PC or Linux.

Required Software:

  1. Xcode (with Command Line Tools)
  2. Homebrew
  3. CMake
  4. Git


Free from the App Store, but only for latest version of OSX -- otherwise you need to find an install from elsewhere (eff Apple on that).

After downloading Xcode, open it and go to Xcode -> Preferences -> Downloads. Select Command Line Tools and Press Install


Package installer and manager, allows you to download useful stuff like Cmake and Git super easily.

To install open up Terminal, paste this code in, and hit Enter.
ruby -e "$(curl -fsSkL"


Code version control system which allows you to download and update libraries and code directly from the repository servers like GitHub etc. Git can also be used to backup your own code, keeping a history of changes made, and allowing others to create "branches" of their versions of your code.

Install by opening terminal and entering
brew install git


For building your own versions of stuff

Install in terminal by entering
brew install cmake

Processing Libraries

If you don't have Processing download it now. But ONLY download v1.5!!! These libraries are not guaranteed to work with the v2.0 beta version.


Download OpenKinect Processing Library and place in you processing libraries folder. You can also checkout the source code here.


Download SimpleOpenNI Installer.
To install:

  • Open Terminal
  • cd to installer folder
  • cd Downloads/OpenNI_NITE_Installer-OSX
  • Run Installer
  • sudo ./

Lastly, download the SimpleOpenNI Processing library and unzip it into your Documents/Processing/libraries folder. If you don't have one just create one, but it must be called "libraries".

Good to go!!!!!


OpenKinect is a very simple library based on the libfreenect open source Kinect library supported by It gives you simple access to the Kinect's cameras, led, motor. However, it does not support Skeleton Tracking and Gesture Recognition.


SimpleOpenNI is a "Natural Interaction" library for Processing. It combines two very powerful open source libraries and makes them available for Processing. Without going too in depth, OpenNI and NITE are extremely powerful and SimpleOpenNI makes them pretty easy to use. However, SimpleOpenNI doesn't allow motor or LED control.


"Making Things See" is a great book that exclusively uses SimpleOpenNI and walks you through how the Kinect and Library work and the many things you can do with them. is a decent wiki on the various aspects of Kinect hacking and has a good collection of information and videos of projects, however, most of the projects don't include source code or even descriptions of how they did it.
A fabulous tutorial from Creative Applications
Daniel Shiffman, the guy who developed the OpenKinect library, has a basic guide to using OpenKinect.


Next project: → Kinect Starter's Guide

Previous project: ← Kinect Starter's Guide

Kinect Starter's Guide
Kinect Starter's Guide
Kinect Starter's Guide
Kinect Starter's Guide
Kinect Starter's Guide