Microsoft claims Kinect left open by design (with bonus hacked vids)
The Kinect’s open-source PC drivers allow coders to have their way with the hardware, and we’ve already begun to see interesting things coming from the community. On NPR last Friday, a company spokesman said that wasn’t an accident: Microsoft left the USB connection open by design.That could be a retcon—or it could be the truth—but it’s nice to hear Microsoft be so welcoming of third-party drivers on the hardware, especially since the announcement was made in such a public forum. And we already have a real-time lightsaber demo… and that’s pretty much wicked.
Also, the hardware has not been hacked
Microsoft is adamant that, until the proprietary software has been compromised or the hardware itself has changed, the Kinect has not been hacked. “What has happened is someone wrote an open-source driver for PCs that essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn’t protect by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor,” Alex Kipman, director of incubation at Microsoft, said on NPR. “The sensor, again, as I talked earlier, has eyes and ears and that’s a whole bunch of, you know, noise that someone needs to take and turn into signal.”
Just to make the point clear, host Ira Flatow asked specifically if the USB connection was left open on purpose. Kipman repeated that yes, that was a conscious decision.
He also made it clear that no one was going to get in trouble for writing their own programs for the Kinect. “We will, sooner rather than later—and we’re already doing a lot of this—continue to partner with academic places to make sure that this innovation does make it into academic circles, right? So we started this already with places like USC and other universities some time ago.”
So what’s being done?
Real time lightsaber
Coders have hit the ground running, creating interesting new ways of using the hardware. Here we have a program that tracks what appears to be a wooden dowel and replaces it with a lightsaber on the computer screen. A mirror in the video helpfully shows the action in real time while the screen shows the augmented reality lightsaber.
Don’t you know about the word?
This next video is also a fascinating use of the technology. Using the Kinect and a projector, you can use your arm to control a virtual bird-like puppet. This was created in a single day, but it already shows a lot of promise. Take a look.
Augmented reality with Doom 3 character
We’ve already seen the Kinect used to show a real-time 3D image, but this takes it a step forward by introducing a virtual element with the Doom 3 character model. Wait until the camera pans around the 3D image that’s being recorded in real time, controlled by the user. Amazing stuff.
These projects were created with readily available programs, and they’re impressive considering the limited amount of time people have had to play with the drivers. If you bought a Kinect, you have a lot to look forward to—there’s no telling what people will create next. While they may not have Microsoft’s complete blessing, it seems the company has softened its stance on these third-party projects, and that’s good news for everyone.
- How The X-Box Kinect Tracks Your Moves (npr.org)