Open API to Kinect

It did not took long for the hacking/hobbyist community to reverse engineer the API with Microsoft’s Kinect. Kinect device is the new gizmo for Xbox which uses the body as an input device.

Adafruit, a US company, offered a $3,000 bounty to the first developer who would provide a library to connect to the Kinect. Hector Martin is the winner. His library gives access the RGB data from the camera together with the depth map.

The first person who reported to be able to connect to Kinect was alexP from NUI. Nevertheless, he did not publish his drivers. He works with the open source group Natural User Interface (NUI). At the contrary,Hector Martin has published them as open source under the name LibFreenect. Meanwhile, Theo Watson has adapted this library to work on Mac OS X.

The initial reaction of Microsoft to Adafruit’s challenge was to threaten of legal suite in case of hacking.

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

Microsoft has smoothened its position. It does not claim that this library is a hack (which stricto senso may be true).

Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked–in any way–as the software and hardware that are part of Kinect for Xbox 360 have not been modified. What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to interface with the Kinect for Xbox 360. The creation of these drivers, and the use of Kinect for Xbox 360 with other devices, is unsupported. We strongly encourage customers to use Kinect for Xbox 360 with their Xbox 360 to get the best experience possible

The position of Microsoft is very smart. In no way does this library harm Microsoft business. Soon, hobbyists will use the Kinect and create most probably applications extending further than game. They may even come with some ideas that Microsoft’s engineers will be able to exploit. This may be even good advertisement for Kinect.

It reminds the use of Sony’s PS3 in fields unrelated to games. See security Newsletter #9.

Another winner is Adafruit, for $5,000, they made the headlines worldwide! and with the role of good guys!! That is cheap. :)

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