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Open Kinect project angers Microsoft

ConsumerNews
, 05 Nov 2010News

Enterprising hackers, excited about the potential of the technology behind Microsoft's Kinect sensor system for the Xbox 360, have put up a bounty for the first person to write open source drivers for the device - and the software giant isn't happy.

Adafruit, a company which specialises in robotics and electronic equipment such as the popular Arduino open source prototyping platform, has launched what it describes as its "first ever 'X Prize' type project," aimed at developing open source drivers that allow hackers to tap in to the technology behind Microsoft's Kinect.

They're not just rewarding hackers with a warm fuzzy glow of success, either: although an original prize fund of $1,000 was allocated, Adafruit has now increased that figure to $2,000, following claims by a Microsoft spokesman speaking to CNET that "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."

Spoilsports.

If those kind of threats don't phase you, then to get your hands on the prize, you need to write a driver under an open source licence and a demonstration application that proves it works. The demo program should show video from the in-built webcam in one window, at a minimum resolution of 640 x 480, while another window should show data from the depth sensors. Once uploaded to Adafruit's public GitHub repository, you can claim your prize.

With a recent teardown of the Kinect sensor system showing some pretty clever technology hidden behind the cheap plastic casing, the device could prove a win for homebrew hackers looking to implement next-generation user interaction systems - providing Microsoft doesn't send the attack laywers in to shut the project down before it has a chance to begin.

More information, and details of how to enter, is available on the official Adafruit website.

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