'Official' Kinect drivers released

Microsoft's Kinect 3D sensing platform, originally designed as an add-on for the company's Xbox 360 games console, is proving popular in hacker circles - and the company behind the device is doing its bit to help.

While early efforts to reverse engineer the device, which uses its sensors to feed a video feed and low-resolution depth information to a USB-connected host, were met with legal threats from Microsoft, the company has decided that a sale is a sale and recently changed its tune to support the efforts of the hackers, modders, and tinkerers that are finding new and exciting ways to use the device on a PC or Mac platform.

Now, the effort has received a major boost in the form of official drivers for the Kinect sensor system - but it's not clear if the release has the blessing of Microsoft.

The 'official' driver package, currently available for 32-bit Windows systems and both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux systems, comes as part of the OpenNI initiative, a collaborative effort between several companies with the aim of driving the development of natural interaction computing interfaces - and PrimeSense, the company that developed Kinect for Microsoft, is a founding member.

The group is relatively new, having only got together last month, but has already released the alpha driver package along with a user manual detailing how the group's vision of the open source OpenNI platform offers developers an easy route into natural user interfaces.

The release of 'official' drivers comes as a source involved with the Kinect project at Microsoft revealed to games news site Eurogamer that work was progressing on bypassing technical restrictions on the quality of data received from the depth sensor in order to increase the sensitivity by a factor of four - potentially giving the Kinect platform the accuracy it would need to track individual finger movements or wrist rotation, rather than the flailing of an entire limb.

With hackers, tinkerers, and roboticists continuing to find new and exciting uses for Microsoft's Kinect system, the future of the human computer interface could be closer than you think.

For the curious, the OpenNI alpha release is available for download from the official site.