Microsoft backflips on Kinect hacking

Microsoft today appeared to have a change of heart about the open-source community finding new uses for its Kinect device, with a company representative claiming Kinect was left open ''by design''.

CNET reports that Xbox director of incubation Alex Kipman made the comment on National Public Radio show "Science Friday". Mr Kipman argued that ''hacking'' was the wrong term for what was happening with the Kinect.  

''Kinect was not actually hacked. Hacking would mean that someone got to our algorithms that sit on the side of the Xbox and was able to actually use them. Which hasn't happened. Or it means that you put a device between the sensor and the Xbox for means of cheating, which also has not happened. What has happened is someone wrote a open-source driver for PCs, which essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn't protect, by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor.''

Fellow Softie Shannon Loftis added to Mr Kipman's comments by saying she is ''inspired'' by hacking efforts thus far.

''As an experience 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,'' she said.

When queried about the possibility of legal action against members of the open-source community, Mr Kipman responded: ''No, absolutely not.''

If the pair's comments do represent an official Microsoft position, it would be an about-face from the company's stance just a fortnight ago, when a representative told CNET that Microsoft did not ''condone the modification of its products.''

''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,'' the spokesperson said on November 4.

Both CNET and Neowin have requested comment from Microsoft.

The open source community took just three days after Kinect's US release to find alternative uses for the motion controller. In the fortnight since, users have demonstrated uses including as a ''handsfree multitouch'' input device for a PC and as a 3D webcam able to create a live 3D "model" of a room and everything in it. Most recently, Kinect has been demoed as a controller for Windows 7 and as a motion capture device.

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