The Kinect: A low-cost, high-resolution, short-range 3D camera

Kenneth David Mankoff, Tess Alethea Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


We present a novel application of the Kinect™, an input device designed for the Microsoft® Xbox360® video game system. The device can be used by Earth scientists as a low-cost, high-resolution, short-range 3D/4D camera imaging system producing data similar to a terrestrial light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensor. The Kinect contains a structured light emitter, an infrared camera (the combination of these two produce a distance image), a visual wavelength camera, a three-axis accelerometer, and four microphones. The cost is~US $100, frame rate is 30Hz, spatial and depth resolutions are mm to cm depending on range, and the optimal operating range is 0.5 to ~5m. The resolution of the distance measurements decreases with distance and is ≤1mm at 0.5m and ~75mm at 5m. We illustrate data collection and basic data analysis routines in three experiments designed to demonstrate the breadth and utility of this new sensor in domains of glaciology, stream bathymetry, and geomorphology, although the device is applicable to a number of other Earth science fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)926-936
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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