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OpenKinect project has a winner

Microsoft's Kinect 3D sensor platform, developed as an add-on to the company's Xbox 360 gaming console, is now an open source device - even if the company doesn't want it to be.

The Open Kinect project was launched by hardware hacking company Adafruit last week, offering a $1,000 prize for anyone who could supply open source drivers for the Kinect device and a demonstration implementation to prove they work. When Microsoft publicly threatened legal action against anyone daring to fiddle with their legally-purchased hardware in unapproved ways, Adafruit raised the stakes to $2,000 - and later $3,000.

Now, just one week later, the competition is over and a winner has been crowned. Open source hacker Hector Martin wasn't the first to actually develop drivers for the Kinect hardware - that award goes to a hacker called Alex P, who beat Martin to the punch by three days with Kinect drivers for Windows - but is the first to release the source code for his creation under an open source licence for public use and modification.

The code, which has now been uploaded to a public Git repository for hackers, coders, and tinkerers the world over to play with, allows the Kinect to be connected to a PC via USB and reads information from both the integrated webcam and the depth sensors - allowing developers to use the sensor equipment in their own projects.

Microsoft, for its part, is unlikely to take the release of the code lying down. Despite the fact that the driver's development was completely 'black box' - with no Microsoft code featuring whatsoever - the company will likely attempt to take the project down in order to prevent sales of the device being made to hackers, to whom Microsoft can't sell profitable games software, rather than Xbox 360 owners.

True to its word, Adafruit rewarded Martin with a $3,000 payout - which Martin says he will be spending on much-needed hardware for a variety of hacking projects including the iPhone Dev Team and Wii hackers Team Twiizers - along with a further $2,000 donation to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who will likely publicly defend the legitimacy of the project should Microsoft take legal action against Martin or Adafruit.

The code and associated data files is available from the Open Kinect Google Group or Martin's Git repository, while a video below demonstrates the Kinect hardware running on a PC.