Has anyone out there experienced any vision problems from the Xbox Kinect laser? I am wondering if anyone else has noticed spots, well not spots, more like a test pattern in their eyes that can be seen after playing kinect? I assume that this is due somehow to the laser in the IR sensor, is this normal or do I have a defective laser in my unit.

I've never had this before and since I only got my xbox kinect as a Xmas gift a few days ago I've noticed it twice immediately after playing kinect for about 10-20 minutes or so.

The spots resemble a vertical or slightly diagonal line and really resemble a sort of one dimensional test pattern (with various symbols, kinda like various geometric shapes).

No, I don't put my eyes right up to the sensor, I use it normally as per the instructions.



The Kinect game itself doesn't matter, I first noticed it yesterday and then again today. It is really odd as when I close my eyes I can see the various patterns in a single strip. It has the width and length of about a finger held vertically at arms length. It disappears in about 10-20 minutes after I stop playing but does leave me with a residual head-ache. Needless to say, it has been disconnected and I've contact XBOX.

The patterns themselves look kinda geometrical, hard to focus on though.

Nick: laser/IR emitter can be the same thing- if it emits IR and is phase coherent. The sensor itself has a class 1 laser device stamped on it and several websites describe it as a laser (in the 800nm range it seems). I don't have the full specs as I assume that is a rather closely guarded secret. Perhaps it is an IR LED with a grating in front, I don't know as I didn't build it.


Thanks everyone for your input. I went to an electronics store where Kinect was on display. The same thing happened there so that settles it for me. It appears that I am an unlucky sod who doesn't get to play kinect without glasses!

  • 1
    Does this happen with a particular game? All games? Jan 1, 2011 at 21:09
  • 1
    The emitter does output a sort of grid pattern. Perhaps you are somehow seeing that? Jan 2, 2011 at 2:29
  • 2
    (Typing from the vision left in the remaining eye.) Don't LOOK at the laser(with your remaining eye)!
    – abel
    Jan 11, 2011 at 9:34
  • 1
    Related: Is the Kinect IR laser safe?
    – Brant
    Feb 22, 2012 at 0:08

6 Answers 6


The Kinect is classified as a class 1 laser device (Review from Anandtech), which means the maximum emitted power of the laser is <25 μW. This amount of power, according to current knowledge, is safe. It should not be able to cause lasting damage, it doesn't necessarily mean it is not capable of causing afterimages or similar effects.

According to the OpenKinect page the IR laser diode itself is capable of emitting 60 mW at 830 nm, which is far above safe limits. The signal is spread out, which reduces the intensity to safe levels. There seem to be some safety features built-in to ensure that. If those safety features would fail it would be theoretically possible for the Kinect to emit a harmful amount of IR. I cannot say how likely that is, though.

There is also an image of the Kinect IR pattern in the review, but it does not look like the pattern you described. You can see that pattern yourself using e.g. a smartphone camera or any other camera without an IR filter.

We humans also are not capable of seeing electromagnetic emissions in the IR range. But emissions in the near IR range (800-1400 nm) are still focused onto the retina and can damage it. Additionally, an IR laser will not activate the blink reflex, which normally would prevent further damage to the eyes. There are also no pain receptors in on the retina that could warn you, at the point were you notice the laser it will be too late and permanent damage has been inflicted.

I would personally doubt that the Kinect is responsible, but I'm not really qualified to estimate the probability of the safety measures of the Kinect failing and to judge the medical consequences of unsafe amounts of IR emissions.

I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice and I strongly recommend you to have your eyes checked by a medical professional.

  • 3
    I recall reading something in the OpenKinect group that though it is rated class 1, that is only because it has a boat-load of protections and safeties to reduce it to class 1 levels. Jan 4, 2011 at 2:46
  • Thanks @F Oak. I've added that information and changed my conclusion somewhat. Jan 4, 2011 at 12:54
  • 2
    Is anyone else at least a bit freaked out by this?
    – Keaanu
    Jan 5, 2011 at 17:04
  • 1
    @Keaanu I consider it very unlikely that the Kinect can malfunction in a way that would be dangerous. That would be just too much of a liability for Microsoft. But powerful lasers are really scary. Jan 5, 2011 at 17:06
  • I just hope we all aren't guinea pigs for this new technology. I'm very concerned now, since my kids love to play it. I'm going to keep looking into it....it doesn't sound good and I will get rid of it if I'm risking our vision. We haven't experienced these effects yet, but we just got the game at Christmas. Will sunglasses protect against laser?
    – user17357
    Dec 29, 2011 at 22:03

I have no particular expertise on the situation, but I would recommend going full scientist and trying to control for the potential causing factors. Three ideas that immediately come to mind would be to watch someone else play, to wear sunglasses while playing, and to play in varying ambient light levels. This would control for physical activity, many bands of EM radiation, and ambient contrast, each of which could not unreasonably result in discomfort or visual effects.

I suspect that varying one of these experimental conditions will make your symptoms go away, and you can subsequently verify and more specifically identify the responsible agent. I included physical activity among the major candidates since your description of the phenomenon you're experiencing has little literal similarity with radiation patterns emitted from the Kinect (and you say you've already controlled for different games), so the issue is unlikely strictly visual.

If on the other hand, nothing causes your experience to change, then I would just suggest looking for increasingly unusual factors (e.g., turning away from the TV so you can only hear what's going on while a friend plays).


I've been chundling up the yourshape fitness evolved rankings and have had sore eyes ever since. I was determined to get to the number 1 spot in the UK - but it looks like I might give that a miss for now.

I've been playing for at least 2hrs each day (if not 4) in the last week(s) and my eyes have a tingling sensation. At first I thought it was tiredness but I don't physically feel tired and my eyes are red sore looking. They look different to the red sore tiredness I usually get when looking in my mirror.

The problem lies in the fact that these products haven't really been tested on a large scale. How close you stand next to the kinect box could have a dramatic effect on any possible effect on the human body.

In yourshape fitness evolved, I've noticed that you have to stand in certain positions for the game/software to give you a 100% score. In some parts of the program you have to stand close to the box whilst for other parts of the program/game you have to stand further back to get 100%. I guess variations on which exercise program you prefer will determine owr much the IR could possibly affect you. Saftey glasses look like they may be on their way to my house as a precaution.

  • Same. i have a bit of a blury spot in the middle of my focus after playing the game for any length of time. Lasts a few days.
    – user16335
    Dec 12, 2011 at 14:09
  • You'll want glasses that block IR, not safety glasses. Dec 29, 2011 at 23:02

I am not a doctor, but it looks like your eyesight is sensitive to IR. Anandtech's reviewer guessed that the laser is in the range of 750 and 900 nm. According to Wikipedia, a typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 390 to 750 nm.

In order to play with the Kinect, you ought to go to an eye doctor where she/he will tell you what appropriate action you ought to undertake so that this doesn't affect your eyesight (maybe play with Kinect with specific types of glasses, etc...).

Again I am not a doctor, so you need to consult with an eye doctor before you continue to play.

  • 8
    You are not unlucky. quite the contrary, your eyesight is sensitive to wavelengths other people don't have access to. Jan 5, 2011 at 17:08

IR radiation can cause cataract to the eye. Check it out on Google. I will use some glasses with no prescription with kinect to avoid damaging my eyes. Since glass filters this type or ir light.


Yes, I have had this problem with my right eye since we got Kinect in November. I clocked in mega hours doing workouts and dancing, and had weird grid like patterns upon going to sleep. I thought it was just stress (xmas season) but have been left with this weird shape I see every time I blink in my right eye, looks round with shadows above, and when I squint, shadows change below, looking 3d, in my field of vision the size of the 3 fingers together when arm is extended from my face.

I suppose it will go away. It doesn't bother me much, or maybe I looked into the sun by accident that winter. If it doesn't go away, it won't bother me too much, but thought this game was safe because it is produced by smart people. I currently fly helicopters, and this hasn't bothered me at all.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .