Group offers $2,000 bounty for open source Kinect drivers

Microsoft’s new Kinect for the Xbox 360 is expected to be a huge seller this holiday season.  The technology packed inside of the little bar is advanced but currently can only be used on the Xbox 360.

You knew it was only a matter of time before someone would start working on a way to use Microsoft’s new device in new and unique ways, and it now appears that Adafruit Industries is offering a $2,000 “bounty” to anyone who writes an open source driver that allows Kinect to work on a Windows, Linux, or MacOS platform in addition to the Xbox 360.

The group first posted a $1,000 reward for the drivers.  Shortly thereafter, Microsoft sent a letter to CNET telling them that, “Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products.”  This prompted Adafruit, run by MIT Media Lab alumni Limor Fried and Make magazine Senior Editor Phillip Torrone, to increase the bounty up to $2,000 with a threat that they may up it to $3,000.

This situation brings up an interesting question on what consumers can and can not do with products that they purchase.  The reward for drivers does not ask users to physically modify the Kinect, so no modification of the product will occur.  On the other hand, reverse engineering of the product will be required and that is probably what Microsoft will fight against.  Don’t be surprised if the DMCA comes into play in this debate.

How long will it take for someone to write a working driver for this device under Windows, Linux, or MacOS?

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29 Comments

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Microsoft will surely release drivers for Windows games in the future.

Asfor the "bounty", someone will make something usable in no time. I think Microsoft is right in protecting their hardware, but there always will be someone that can reverse engineer it.

I believe Logitech has had a Motion Sensing Camera (Orbit MP?) that's been able to do what the Kinect does, just can't have as much motion on the screen or it will get confused. Logitech also has the Air Mouse.

AFAIK Kinect works with an off-the-shelf Xbox, so the Kinect output should be quite usable, with the hard part being to translate that output into something apps could work with. In theory I'd think it *could* be done monitoring what passes both ways over the wiring to/from the Xbox, not that more direct reverse engineering wouldn't be used, but maybe something for the lawyers to argue about. My guess is that besides the std. legal issues, Microsoft might worry that other [non-Xbox] uses for the Kinect could someday mean much cheaper clones on the market -- they patented the tech as it relates to the Xbox, but I assume couldn't get broad patents on things like the camera & mic, or IOW much of the base hardware that the Kinect's made out of. If the potential market is big enough, as always somebody will develop & market something that works much the same way. While it's new, Microsoft owned tech today, it could conceivably be as common as generic controllers [e.g. joysticks] tomorrow. After all, when MS started talking about, hyping what became the Kinect, remember there were several examples using PCs.

There is no point to write driver for Kinect because all the algorithms and software for Kinect is done through software inside Xbox which is encrypted using Xbox CPU. Kinect as a device is only cameras, microphones and other thing like these. all the motion detections happened inside Xbox using Microsoft software technology

aydinj said,
There is no point to write driver for Kinect because all the algorithms and software for Kinect is done through software inside Xbox which is encrypted using Xbox CPU. Kinect as a device is only cameras, microphones and other thing like these. all the motion detections happened inside Xbox using Microsoft software technology
That's the purpose of the driver.

This could open the doors up for a future of virtual reality.. I mean think about it.. a motion senor device that works with your computer.. move your mouse, click in air and it'll open your web browser for you.. ... Grab a file with your fingers and move it somewhere else. Johnny Mnemonic anyone?

It'll happen..

And for those of you that dont think it will just because of the millions it took in research to do this in the first place are blind... It took them millions to come up with the way to do this.. not to clone it and make it workable on other platforms.. The hard works already been done.

I bet its a lot harder then just writing a driver.... I bet microsoft actually put a good bit of the code into the xbox firmware and the system update they just pushed to make the thing work how it does

neufuse said,
I bet its a lot harder then just writing a driver.... I bet microsoft actually put a good bit of the code into the xbox firmware and the system update they just pushed to make the thing work how it does

I would never have guessed that.

All of you are forgetting that people will do this for free to either stick it to a corporation such as Microsoft, or just because they are such huge advocates of open source, that they will take that 'bounty'.

Either way, I'm sure sooner or later, it will happen.

Amodin said,
All of you are forgetting that people will do this for free to either stick it to a corporation such as Microsoft, or just because they are such huge advocates of open source, that they will take that 'bounty'.

Either way, I'm sure sooner or later, it will happen.


+1

Amodin said,
All of you are forgetting that people will do this for free to either stick it to a corporation such as Microsoft, or just because they are such huge advocates of open source, that they will take that 'bounty'.

Either way, I'm sure sooner or later, it will happen.

Not sure how it would be sticking it to Microsoft since you'd still have to buy the device, and MS still makes some money off of it... they rarely sell items at a loss, consoles yes, but other items rarely

neufuse said,

Not sure how it would be sticking it to Microsoft since you'd still have to buy the device, and MS still makes some money off of it... they rarely sell items at a loss, consoles yes, but other items rarely


Post it online as open source, so that third party hardware developers can run the baton around the stadium for the victory lap.

lol, $2000 for a hardware driver that you have to reverse engineer? Do they even know how much a good "driver" developer is worth (try 6 figures /year)? Up it to $3000? wow, a big threat.

chubby10 said,
lol, $2000 for a hardware driver that you have to reverse engineer? Do they even know how much a good "driver" developer is worth (try 6 figures /year)? Up it to $3000? wow, a big threat.

They're probably targeting 13 year old "hackers". I'm sure they'll find a few.

DARKFiB3R said,

They're probably targeting 13 year old "hackers". I'm sure they'll find a few.

This would require a serious engineering effort, and I would guess that a significant amount of work would need to be reverse engineered and replicated. A driver is possible, but it would probably render your Kinect a very expensive webcam for your PC.

All those months and years of research into the motion-sensing technologies that Microsoft put in to the Kinect? The millons of dollars spent on said research? It'll be replicated in a few weeks by some open-source geeks for $2,000.

Yeah, I don't think so.

iKenndac said,
All those months and years of research into the motion-sensing technologies that Microsoft put in to the Kinect? The millons of dollars spent on said research? It'll be replicated in a few weeks by some open-source geeks for $2,000.

Yeah, I don't think so.

Yeah, people seem to think oooh write a driver and I get everything! the whole API is part of the xbox update that was pushed recently, and heck it might even have a good part of the processing code... which you'd have to figure out and rewrite

Magallanes said,
linux driver + Blender 3d = epic win.

if((windows_driver && sculptress) == win)
{
print("cooooooooooooool\n");
} else
{
print("awwwww\n");
}

Sraf said,

if((windows_driver && sculptress) == win)
{
print("cooooooooooooool\n");
} else
{
print("awwwww\n");
}


cooooooooooooool

So they want to allow people to use it basically as a webcam on the pc ? Can't imagine them using the motion detection for gaming on a pc.