Why you should avoid the Xbox One Kinect

The Xbox 360 Kinect will track equally well if not better for cheaper.

The price

This will change varying on your situation and country. But in 99% of cases, the Xbox 360 Kinect and the adapter for it are much cheaper than Xbox One Kinect and it's adapter.

Xbox 360 Kinect usually goes for anywhere between 5 and 20 dollars online. And it's adapter is either included or costs between 5 and 10 dollars itself.

Xbox One Kinect while it can be had for similar prices if you know where to look, will usually hang around prices of 30 to 60 dollars.

And most importantly, the adapter on it's own will be at the very least 20 to 30 dollars, except I recommend against buying a knock-off for the Xbox One because the official MIcrosoft adapter, which goes for 60-100 dollars on it's own, has a signal repeater inside the adapter box so that the bandwidth needed for USB 3.0 to run the Kinect actually reaches the entire span of the cable.

It isn't uncommon for clone adapters to lack this functionality, which leads to a lot of issues and unstability, which can then only be fixed by buying more hardware.

USB Controllers

USB devices on computers are handled by USB controllers, you can imagine it like this:

By this logic, a USB controller only has a limited amount of data bandwidth that it can handle before it turns devices off to save face.

Additionally, not all USB controllers are built equal and some of them don't handle the entire USB 3.0 specification. If you've tried to use a Rift S before, you may know about this.

In particular, ASMedia (ASUS) USB 3.0 controllers are notorious for being extremely unreliable and causing a lot of compatibility issues.

As well, if you have a VR headset connected over USB 3.0 (Windows Mixed Reality, Rift S, Oculus Link) and you only have a single USB 3.0 controller, you're pretty much screwed. Especially if you have a laptop or an mATX form-factor motherboard and it's impossible to add an external USB 3.0 PCI Express card to solve the issue.

On the other hand, the Xbox 360 Kinect only requires USB 2.0 and will work on pretty much any chipset made after 2010.

Conflicts with SteamVR Tracking devices

The Xbox One Kinect uses a time-of-flight sensor to capture depth data. This means that a beam of infrared light is flashed for every "pixel" of the depth camera and a photo-sensor receives the light bounce and calculates the time it took for the light to travel back and forth and uses this to calculate depth.

This becomes an issue for devices that use base station tracking like HTC Vive, Vive Pro, Pimax, Valve Index, their controllers, and Vive trackers.

SteamVR base station tracking works on the principle that photo-sensors in the devices (headset, controller, tracker) receive light bounces from the base stations which are actually an infrared light beam on a motor rotating at a precise speed.

Using the timing of when the light hits each of the sensors, the devices can then figure out where they are in space.

Why this causes an issue

Unless you have a single base station that's pointing the same way the Kinect is, the tracking on your devices will get confused by the infrared light coming from the Kinect's time-of-flight system.

Due to extra provisions for tracking resiliency, this issue can be somewhat alleviated when using 2.0 devices (2018 Vive Trackers, Vive Pro, Valve Index, Valve Index controllers, applicable Pimax headsets) and 2.0 base stations (Vive Pro Full Kit, and Valve Index base stations)

But even with the best setup possible, you will still have large dead spots where tracking either goes haywire or simply stops.

Foot rotation issues and "the fog"

Seemingly out of nowhere, around September 2020, we started hearing a lot of complaints Kinect One users that their foot rotation was glitching out.

Essentially, unless the feet were about 1.5ft off the ground, the Kinect could not tell the difference between their feet and the floor.

While trying to infer foot rotation from the skeleton tracking, the Kinect ends up rotating the foet randomly and sporadically.

Almost a year later as of writing this, we've learned a few things, but don't have a perfect fix still. Everything is trial and error and we're currently recommending people put black rugs on the floor.

In conclusion

While the Xbox One Kinect seems like a great device on paper, it's clear that the implementation was botched, especially outside of the actual Xbox ecosystem. If you've stumbled upon this page with the intent of playing JUst Dance on your Xbox One S, ignore my ramblings and go buy it already dammit.

Just get a 360.

If a Microsoft employee reads this, please fix.