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Microsoft declares OpenKinect safe

With open source Kinect drivers now available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, the cat is truly out of the bag for Microsoft's 3D-sensing console add-on - and despite earlier threats to the contrary, the company has confirmed it won't be suing anyone.

When Adafruit launched its OpenKinect project, it offered a prize fund of $1,000 - later raised to $3,000 - to the first person able to upload the source code for an open-source Kinect driver plus a demonstration program that proved its efficacy.

Microsoft, which would prefer all Kinect sales to go to Xbox 360 owners who can then spend more money on games for the device, wasn't happy - threatening to bring legal action against anyone using the device in unapproved ways.

Now, however, the company appears to have admitted defeat. Guesting on NPR's Science Daily radio show hosted by Ira Flatow, Microsoft employees Alex Kipman and Shannon Loftis confirmed that no legal action would be taken against anyone hacking the Kinect sensors for their home-brew projects.

According to a transcript of the discussion, Kipman starts by claiming that the USB connection for the Kinect was left open by design: "What has happened is someone wrote an open-source driver for PCs that essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn't protect by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor."

When Flatow asks Microsoft's representatives to clarify whether the company has any problem with people using the open-source driver packages to use the Kinect sensor on devices other than the Xbox 360, Loftis states categorically not: "as an experienced creator, I'm very excited to see that people are so inspired that it was less than a week after the Kinect came out before they had started creating and thinking about what they could do."

When Flatow asks for confirmation that "No one is going to get in trouble," Kipman confirms: "Nope. Absolutely not."

It's good news all round for hackers and tinkerers who are already finding new an innovative ways to implement the Kinect's depth sensor data into their projects.