It’s only just been released in North America and already there is a move to hack Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller to allow it to be used on systems other than the Xbox 360. As part of its Open Kinect (OK) project, New York-based open-source hardware developer, Adafruit, is offering a US$2,000 bounty to anyone who can produce some open source drivers capable of getting the RGB out and distance values captured by the USB device.
To claim the “OK prize,” the winner must demonstrate the driver by also writing an application with one window showing video and one window showing depth. The driver and/or application can run on any operating system, but they must be completely documented and under an open source license. The first person or team to accomplish this and upload everything to GitHub will claim the $2,000 prize.
Adafruit has thrown the competition open to anyone around the world, cheekily including people at Microsoft. However, judging by comments from a company spokesman to CNET there aren’t likely to be too many Microsoft employees taking up the challenge.
“Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products. With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering. Microsoft will continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”
It's not a surprising response, but while voiding the warranty is one thing, there's something not quite right (and potentially downright scary) about the concept of companies trying to define how you use the hardware you legally purchased. Ingenuity is a pretty hard thing to strangle.
That hasn’t fazed Adafruit though with the company doubling its original $1,000 bounty after learning of the comments.
There’s speculation that Microsoft will extend compatibility of Kinect to the Windows platform at some point in the future but the folk at Adafruit are keen to reverse engineer the device so it can be used for Mac, Linux, embedded systems and even robotics.
With the staggered release of the Kinect it looks like North American entrants will get a head start as other markets await its release later this month. If you’re keen to take a stab at the title and the prize money, head along to the Adafruit site.