For those of you who have already picked up your own Microsoft Kinect, it’s clear that the technology in the device is nothing to scoff at. The ability to track limb movement, facial features, and voice control is quite a lot for a mere $150, and people are already lining up to use the device for their own ends.
Instead of merely considering the way the device could be used if it were hacked and made available to the public, Adafruit Industries, an advocate for open source content has offered up a $2,000 reward to the first person who successfully cracks Kinect.
Kinect cameras all over the world are now quivering in fear of an army of screwdriver and needle-nosed-pliers-wielding geeks, because they have got a serious price on their heads. Given how succesful the Xbox add-on has already become, it’s unlikely that this will be the only group to come out of the woodwork to break Microsoft’s entry into motion control.
The site had initially offered a prize of $1,000, but doubled the amount when Microsoft voiced its disagreement with the idea. A Microsoft spokesperson made it clear that the company does not condone users messing with their hardware or software when speaking with CNET:
“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.”
When Adafruit caught wind of the company’s pledge to do everything in their power to keep the Kinect working exclusively with the Xbox 360, they were less than sympathetic, posting their response on their own site:
“Don’t make us up’ it to $3k”
To get the reward, entrants must submit documentation of their work, evidence of their successful use of the device’s tech, and all must be submitted under an open source license. The winner will be the first to crack the Kinect camera, and create a driver that will allow it to be used on any operating system from Mac and Linux to robotics.
There will certainly be no shortage of possible winners since the device has been available in North America and Europe, and if the recent display of companies protecting their intellectual property continues, you can bet Microsoft will be doing their best to stop them. While the potential uses of Kinect’s technology could be exciting, the last thing Microsoft wants is to see their massive investment into developing the device being given to the world for free.
We’re all for the propogation of technology, since increased availablility will almost always lead to new and exciting ideas. Just look at the successes that have come from the licensing of Epic’s Unreal Engine. But it’s a little difficult to hope that Microsoft’s device will be broken and re-wired after the company spent tens of millions of dollars to make it a reality.
What’s your take on the story? Do you side with Microsoft in seeing the reward offered by Adafruit as product tampering, or support the group’s stance on open source? Whether you think Kinect is the future of gaming or not, it’s already eveident that the product may not be profitable for Microsoft alone.