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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I think MS have to embrace the Kennect's usage by non Xbox users or miss out on a potentially huge business. Apple could never do this, I think MS may struggle but it might just prove their historical behaviour is changing!!

I think the title is hilarious. Do you mean 'backflip' to mean a changed position? Like a 180? Or to backtrack? A person or entity that does a backflip ends up in the same orientation as before. Just some lulz.

PotatoJ said,
I think the title is hilarious. Do you mean 'backflip' to mean a changed position? Like a 180? Or to backtrack? A person or entity that does a backflip ends up in the same orientation as before. Just some lulz.

Ha never thought of it like that!

Can't put the genie back in the bottle, so might as well spin it.

They had to know this was coming anyway, long before release.

mikiem said,
Can't put the genie back in the bottle, so might as well spin it.

They had to know this was coming anyway, long before release.

Of course they did and nothing was done to prevent it. Kinect doesn't check if it is communicating with XBOX.

Hey this is free R&D for MS tho. People put in the community what they want by little steps then it sells by the big guys. This is how windows should be done, using a open flow of ideas from around the world giving a new perspective to the market. This is genius and evil, but be all to the welfare of humanity..

In my opinion MS see the $$ from kinect sales that could happen. Then in the end they will grab all the Open Source stuff, add some proprietary stuff, close it all up and sell the software for a couple hundred bucks a pop.

firey said,
In my opinion MS see the $ from kinect sales that could happen. Then in the end they will grab all the Open Source stuff, add some proprietary stuff, close it all up and sell the software for a couple hundred bucks a pop.

Show me ANY game that is popular on Windows, but created for Linux?

If I had to make my guess, MS was looking to release drivers for the PC anyway, just did not get to doing so just yet. It would be dumb for them to expect that if the thing has a standard USB connectivity (which they obviously DESIGNED to be the case, you know - it was not an accident) - they did not get the idea of the computer use.

I never thought 'hacking' was ever the right term. It's no more or less hacking than people writing opensource drivers for linux for bizarre devices. People did the same with both the PS3 controller and the Wiimote and nobody said that neither was hacked.

The computer vision algorithms that the 360 uses for kinect are the important stuff. Other than that, the kinect is just some pretty input device.

hmm. why does this not surprise me. i figured microsoft would laugh it off and essentially open source the kinect anyway.
its really cool how companies use the technology though.
like they used several hundred PS3's connected together to make the worlds fastest super computer.

netsendjoe said,
hmm. why does this not surprise me. i figured microsoft would laugh it off and essentially open source the kinect anyway.
its really cool how companies use the technology though.
like they used several hundred PS3's connected together to make the worlds fastest super computer.

Nothing really to laugh off, as it was never locked or resticted in the first place.

As in your PS3 example, companies like ESPN use XBox 360 hardware and custom software for video and onscreen realtime graphics processing, Microsoft never said boo about it. In a strange turn of events, Sony ripped out the firmware features that made the PS3 supercomputer possible.

nickcruz said,
@Alley Cat? ARe you hurt? did Microsoft hurt your feelings? stop crapping on the company you little fruity fanbois..

You know, if you want to reply to a comment here theres a far easier way than typing "@Alley Cat". It's called the reply button. Use it.

nickcruz said,
@Alley Cat? ARe you hurt? did Microsoft hurt your feelings? stop crapping on the company you little fruity fanbois..

Trolling I see, nickcruz.

It appears Microsoft feels a little stupid, to lose the Kinect in only 3 days. Flabbergasted that their locks was undone so fast. MS Lawyers need a few weeks or months to figure out how to proceed now.

Microsoft hates Open Source, especially Linux.

Kinect was likely not coming to the PC is less than 2 or 3 years' time.

Alley Cat said,
It appears Microsoft feels a little stupid, to lose the Kinect in only 3 days. Flabbergasted that their locks was undone so fast. MS Lawyers need a few weeks or months to figure out how to proceed now.

Microsoft hates Open Source, especially Linux.

Kinect was likely not coming to the PC is less than 2 or 3 years' time.

Yay, microsoft must be really mad about opensource and linux lovers buying kinects!

Alley Cat said,
It appears Microsoft feels a little stupid, to lose the Kinect in only 3 days. Flabbergasted that their locks was undone so fast. MS Lawyers need a few weeks or months to figure out how to proceed now.

Microsoft hates Open Source, especially Linux.

Kinect was likely not coming to the PC is less than 2 or 3 years' time.


Let me guess, you have no idea what you are talking about?

I can assure you that they had no "locks" on the USB interface, if they did want to protect Kinect then they would have. They didn't however, most likely to garner more sales from the open source community.

Alley Cat said,
It appears Microsoft feels a little stupid, to lose the Kinect in only 3 days. Flabbergasted that their locks was undone so fast. MS Lawyers need a few weeks or months to figure out how to proceed now.

Microsoft hates Open Source, especially Linux.

Kinect was likely not coming to the PC is less than 2 or 3 years' time.


Please tell me why MS hating and stupidity correlate so much?
And why MS haters completely like common sense whe their "beloved" Microsoft is in question?

P.S. BTW Linux shell was hacked to say "I'm hacked!" in 3 seconds (echo "I'm hacked!").

Edited by RealFduch, Nov 20 2010, 5:51pm :

Alley Cat said,
Microsoft hates Open Source, especially Linux.

Another time traveller from the past.

Welcome to 2010 where heterogeneous computing is a reality. MS will do all they can to ensure Windows is the best platform for all applications, even open source.

There is a project going on to create an open source package management system to allow for compilation of open source to native windows executables.

The apps that have been ported directly run better on Windows. They may not be able to get you to give them money, but they will take some from you.

You will like it.

I know i do.

Microsoft doesn't want people to access the code on the x-box or exactly how it works with the Kinect! They never said that it couldn't be used as another device! If they didn't want to allow it to be used as another device they wouldn't have put a USB connection on it! If I had an x-box and a Kinect and seen it was USB, that would have been one of the first things I would have done was plug it into my computer just to see what it would do... Now I know Microsoft isn't the smartest kid on the block but even I know they're not that stupid either... Common sense...

Mystic420 said,
Microsoft doesn't want people to access the code on the x-box or exactly how it works with the Kinect! They never said that it couldn't be used as another device! If they didn't want to allow it to be used as another device they wouldn't have put a USB connection on it! If I had an x-box and a Kinect and seen it was USB, that would have been one of the first things I would have done was plug it into my computer just to see what it would do... Now I know Microsoft isn't the smartest kid on the block but even I know they're not that stupid either... Common sense...

Someone with common sense =)

Weren't the 'original comments' about people opening up the Kinect to modify/access it?

I don't see a change in Microsoft's position.

1) Hacking - No we don't support. (Modifying the hardware or altering the device's interface to the XBox to allow gamers to cheat.)

2) Accessing the device via the USB interface with a custom driver is not hacking. Microsoft has talked about the Kinect becoming available for the PC in the future already, so using it with computers is not something they restricted, or a simple USB interface driver would NOT work. (A simple authenication key or secured handshaking would easily keep the device fairly protected if this was their goal.)

Both statements seem to be consistent and far from a 'backflip'.

thenetavenger said,
Weren't the 'original comments' about people opening up the Kinect to modify/access it?

I don't see a change in Microsoft's position.

1) Hacking - No we don't support. (Modifying the hardware or altering the device's interface to the XBox to allow gamers to cheat.)

2) Accessing the device via the USB interface with a custom driver is not hacking. Microsoft has talked about the Kinect becoming available for the PC in the future already, so using it with computers is not something they restricted, or a simple USB interface driver would NOT work. (A simple authenication key or secured handshaking would easily keep the device fairly protected if this was their goal.)

Both statements seem to be consistent and far from a 'backflip'.

+1

thenetavenger said,
Weren't the 'original comments' about people opening up the Kinect to modify/access it?

I don't see a change in Microsoft's position.

1) Hacking - No we don't support. (Modifying the hardware or altering the device's interface to the XBox to allow gamers to cheat.)

2) Accessing the device via the USB interface with a custom driver is not hacking. Microsoft has talked about the Kinect becoming available for the PC in the future already, so using it with computers is not something they restricted, or a simple USB interface driver would NOT work. (A simple authenication key or secured handshaking would easily keep the device fairly protected if this was their goal.)

Both statements seem to be consistent and far from a 'backflip'.

Logic isn't allowed here, didn't you get the memo?

thenetavenger said,
Both statements seem to be consistent and far from a 'backflip'.

This is Neomac 'nuff said. Logic and common sense are banned.

Front page articles have been subpar likely.

Wanderermy said,

This is Neomac 'nuff said. Logic and common sense are banned.

Front page articles have been subpar likely.

Hahaha neomac. Nah, I see it on most sites lately. It's the Apple fever.

Hacking and reverse engineering are usually discouraged. Because Microsoft never cleared up their definition of "hacking," it was assumed that the usual would apply: don't reverse engineer our stuff. It would usually be the same for any other company, and good on Microsoft for going against what everyone was expecting.

We are not even close to the only site who expected this. In fact, most people who followed any of this expected it. It's not sensationalism, it's just that Microsoft *seemed* dead set against the use of Kinect as anything besides what it was designed for.

thenetavenger said,
Weren't the 'original comments' about people opening up the Kinect to modify/access it?

I don't see a change in Microsoft's position.

1) Hacking - No we don't support. (Modifying the hardware or altering the device's interface to the XBox to allow gamers to cheat.)

2) Accessing the device via the USB interface with a custom driver is not hacking. Microsoft has talked about the Kinect becoming available for the PC in the future already, so using it with computers is not something they restricted, or a simple USB interface driver would NOT work. (A simple authenication key or secured handshaking would easily keep the device fairly protected if this was their goal.)

Both statements seem to be consistent and far from a 'backflip'.

This. I see no inconsistency in the two statements. The headline is inaccurate and should be corrected.

Simon said,
Hacking and reverse engineering are usually discouraged. Because Microsoft never cleared up their definition of "hacking," it was assumed that the usual would apply: don't reverse engineer our stuff. It would usually be the same for any other company, and good on Microsoft for going against what everyone was expecting.

We are not even close to the only site who expected this. In fact, most people who followed any of this expected it. It's not sensationalism, it's just that Microsoft *seemed* dead set against the use of Kinect as anything besides what it was designed for.

Um, pure BS...

Hacking and reverse engineering are discouraged... That is the point, this isn't hacking or reverse engineering. Microsoft has never even once hinted that 'using' Kinect bugged them in the least bit.

It would be like Microsoft being upset that a XBox 360 controller was used on OS X or Linux or a Microsoft Mouse was used on FreeBSD or Linux - which is something that people do everyday.

So the fact that anyone would assume Microsoft would be upset about hooking up the Kinect to something other than a XBox is kind of crazy.

Simon said,
We are not even close to the only site who expected this. In fact, most people who followed any of this expected it. It's not sensationalism, it's just that Microsoft *seemed* dead set against the use of Kinect as anything besides what it was designed for.

How so? It might be fair to say that Microsoft's definition of "hacking" was unclear, given our collective tendency to label any improvised usage as hacking, but I think you're projecting your misunderstanding onto Microsoft.

Does the headline say Microsoft clarifies what they meant by "hacking" Kinect? No, it still states in certain terms that their position has completely changed or that they've made contradictory statements, neither of which appears to be true.

Simon said,
Hacking and reverse engineering are usually discouraged. Because Microsoft never cleared up their definition of "hacking," it was assumed that the usual would apply: don't reverse engineer our stuff. It would usually be the same for any other company, and good on Microsoft for going against what everyone was expecting.

We are not even close to the only site who expected this. In fact, most people who followed any of this expected it. It's not sensationalism, it's just that Microsoft *seemed* dead set against the use of Kinect as anything besides what it was designed for.

Well these was nothing to reverse engineer - Microsoft didn't even put ANY security on any of the components. They quite literally just let the raw feeds flow out uninterrupted, and unencrypted. Their original statement specifically states keeping Kinect-tamper proof.It's not our faults that other blogs mis interpreted this basic statement in need of a catchy heading, thinking that somehow, just plugging a Kinect into your PC and sending basic commands to it is tampering - it's not. Tampering requires modifications of any sort - and no-one has modified it. Or, by definition, no-one has "hacked" it either. Maybe Neowin could take the intiative, use a bit of forward thinking and correct them, instead of just following the rest of the sheep >.<

So all of you guys knew, in certain terms, that Microsoft approved of this? Because I haven't seen that said once - if you can find a source, I'll believe you, but all the signs pointed to Microsoft being against any of this. If you guys were so certain that was false, where did you say so? Or are you just saying it now?

Simon said,
So all of you guys knew, in certain terms, that Microsoft approved of this?

Why does MS need to approve anything?

You really don't understand the difference between hacking and wrighting a driver.

The difference is totally relative - some companies are absolutely opposed to any driver written for their devices. It always depends on the device and the company.

MS needs to approve everything because they control the firmware on the device. If they don't approve it, that functionality goes out the window.

Simon said,
The difference is totally relative - some companies are absolutely opposed to any driver written for their devices. It always depends on the device and the company.

MS needs to approve everything because they control the firmware on the device. If they don't approve it, that functionality goes out the window.


I don't know tbh. I think if Microsoft really wanted to lock down kinect they could have. They could have locked down the USB connection, which they didn't. They could have used the same wireless format they use for the 360 controllers (I'm guessing nobody has found out how to "hack" it since the only non-OEM controllers i've seen are wired...could be wrong though). They could have encrypted the feeds from the device.

But they did nothing?

Simon said,
So all of you guys knew, in certain terms, that Microsoft approved of this? Because I haven't seen that said once - if you can find a source, I'll believe you, but all the signs pointed to Microsoft being against any of this. If you guys were so certain that was false, where did you say so? Or are you just saying it now?

Seriously?

Have you EVER seen Microsoft complain when a Microsoft Mouse or Keyboard was used on OpenBSD or Linux? Have you EVER seen Microsoft complain when any of their hardware was used on a 'non-supported' system or OS configuration. EVER?

The XBox 360 controller was never designed or supported on Linux or OpenBSD or even OS X, yet tons of people use them on these systems, with even explict game support for the specific XBox 360 controllers on these OSes. Have you EVER seen Microsoft complain?

You aren't being serious. And if you are, unplug your MS Mouse from any non-Windows computer and WAIT for them to tell you that you have SPECIFIC permission to use the device with that computer.

Geesh...

I've seen them get pretty defensive over some of their technologies with extensive patents around them, and Kinect would fall under that category. A mouse is not the same as the Kinect. They also hadn't specifically stated that they would defend and lock down any of their mice or keyboards.

With Kinect, they had.

Wanderermy said,

This is Neomac 'nuff said. Logic and common sense are banned.

Front page articles have been subpar likely.

Yes. Neomac. Because we just got bashed a ton by fanboys for reviewing wp7 in a positive light against their other precious phones.

Or we're so anti apple because we post the the goofy e-mail replies that steve job's has been sending people...

Ugh, we're so biased.

Simon said,
I've seen them get pretty defensive over some of their technologies with extensive patents around them, and Kinect would fall under that category. A mouse is not the same as the Kinect. They also hadn't specifically stated that they would defend and lock down any of their mice or keyboards.

With Kinect, they had.

Actually, a Mouse is very much just like a Kinect, they are both 'input' devices. Maybe I should have suggested the Microsoft Web Cameras as another example, which again Microsoft has NEVER complained about it being used on a non-supported OS or hardware platform.

As for Microsoft being 'pretty defensive', I think you are seeing something that isn't there. Over the course of the past 20 years, Microsoft has rarely ever took action against anyone for patents or technology. Microsoft has had literally a handful of cases where they went after anyone, in contrast to companies like Sun or Apple that have filed 100s to 1000s of lawsuits.

So, again, seriously? Let the MS hate or the fanboi thing go and just be ok with the world for a moment.

The smartest thing Microsoft can do is leave Kinect to the open-source community to see what the community can do and later implant the technology itself.

COKid said,
Agreed. There are so many creative people out there. I can only imagine what they could come up with.

I'm inclined to suggest that Microsoft employ all these people who are developing for the Kinect on PC.

day2die said,
The smartest thing Microsoft can do is leave Kinect to the open-source community to see what the community can do and later implant the technology itself.

That way they can totally crush Nintendo