Microsoft Kinect hacked three days after release

Late last week it was reported that a New-York based company; Adafruit Industries were offering $2000 to any individual or group that could develop an open source Kinect driver hack that could bring the technology to other platforms outside of Xbox360.

Today, it was announced that someone has successfully done exactly that task. The outcome was fairly inevitable although the time taken is what is leaving many speechless. Kinect was released three days ago in the United States and is still yet to be released in Europe.

Microsoft weren’t the least happy about Adafruit offering the bounty, who raised the offer from $1000 to $2000 in response to Microsoft’s negativity.  A company spokesperson for Microsoft told CNET that “Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products,” The spokesperson followed up by saying "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."

Phillip Torrone, Senior editor for Make magazine and a part investor of the bounty said the idea behind offering the bounty was because "Its amazing hardware that shouldn't just be locked up for Xbox 360,” which Torrone told CNET in an email. "Its 'radar camera' being able to get video and distance as a sensor input from commodity hardware is huge."

Torrone believes that like the Nintendo Wii remote did, Kinect could offer a lot of opportunities to education and robotics.

A YouTube video was posted of desktop control of Kinect although it shows control of the motor which is said to be the easiest part of Kinect to control. The question is, how will Microsoft respond?

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Mobile Gaming Review Roundup - November 6, 2010

Next Story

Neowin Giveaway: XYplorer Lifetime License - Contest closed

64 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

If a smaller-scale Kinect were released to sit on top of a desk/monitor for the masses, allowing us to have motion control in a Windows environment, i think it would be very cool and perhaps very successful.

Also I think for those with disabilities and learning difficulties or even children, an operating system made by a company such as microsoft which encourages movement without a mouse could be a good thing. It would help teach co-ordination and so on.

Nah, that wouldn't be an implementation I would want. How about simply controlling it with finger recognition, but at least apply the skeletal thing?

Of course, I wouldn't want to use it as a pointing device in a way that I might as well use a webcam... how about something like in the vid? I don't know...

I commend Adafruit. If a Linux Kinect driver that allows you to use it as the pointer comess around, I have big plans for it...

I find it really ridiculous that someone can claim that because a technology is "great" that it's now O.K. to reverse engineer or hack it... If you think it's so great, make something yourself that is as good or better, it doesn't make stealing it right...

Stealing? That's a bit strong, don't you think? Nothing is being stolen here, you know. All that's being done is someone has bypassed the so called security built in to the Kinect hardware so that he can access it on a PC. Nothing illegal has happened whatsoever.

FloatingFatMan said,
Stealing? That's a bit strong, don't you think? Nothing is being stolen here, you know. All that's being done is someone has bypassed the so called security built in to the Kinect hardware so that he can access it on a PC. Nothing illegal has happened whatsoever.

I disagree. This technology was developed, and the investment made, in order to provide something unique to their users. Rationalizing hacking this technology because a particular person thinks it's too cool to allow Microsoft to benefit from THEIR investment is nothing more than self serving, and IS theft. How about this hacker comes up with the millions of dollars it took in R&D to develop this rather than steal the work of others?

M_Lyons10 said,
I find it really ridiculous that someone can claim that because a technology is "great" that it's now O.K. to reverse engineer or hack it... If you think it's so great, make something yourself that is as good or better, it doesn't make stealing it right...

*Sigh* yet again someone else who doesn't understand what software is.

If it wernt for reverse engineering, a lot of the stuff out there wouldn't exsit today. There is also nothing illegial about reverse engineering software/hardware, provided the new hardware/software is a clean-room creation.

Also, in the UK, we have a law that says that de-compiling object code is legal provided it's for interoperability reasons.

rtire said,

*Sigh* yet again someone else who doesn't understand what software is.

If it wernt for reverse engineering, a lot of the stuff out there wouldn't exsit today. There is also nothing illegial about reverse engineering software/hardware, provided the new hardware/software is a clean-room creation.

Also, in the UK, we have a law that says that de-compiling object code is legal provided it's for interoperability reasons.

First off, I am a software developer, so I do understand what software is, and I also respect the investment and research development of same entails. I feel very strongly that companies that invest heavily and leverage their assets to develop new and revolutionary technologies should be able to benefit from that investment (Such as by locking it down to their games console). To not allow that, and to argue that hacking is O.K. when the technology is cool, does nothing but stifle similar investment in the future.

And also, though the EU would lead you to believe otherwise, UK law does not extend to the rest of the world. Nor do I honestly feel the argument could be made that this would be for interoperability reasons, as there's nothing outside of the XBox that would support this or need to operate with it.

I feel that it is ok for a company to try and lock down products so that it only works with their other products. I just feel strongly against the fact that some folks think it should be protected by law.

Well, to be fair, I don't think that Kinect was thought include security at all, just like no hardware vendor puts security to prevent others to develop drivers to use their hardware elsewhere. Additionally, the Kinect pretty much does everything by itself, it's all hardware accelerated and it probably just uses the USB connection to transmit data and receive commands. This wasn't really a hack, they didn't figure out how to get into your Kinect and steal something, I think "jailbroken" would be a more appropriate term.

Charles Keledjian said,
Well, to be fair, I don't think that Kinect was thought include security at all, just like no hardware vendor puts security to prevent others to develop drivers to use their hardware elsewhere. Additionally, the Kinect pretty much does everything by itself, it's all hardware accelerated and it probably just uses the USB connection to transmit data and receive commands. This wasn't really a hack, they didn't figure out how to get into your Kinect and steal something, I think "jailbroken" would be a more appropriate term.

From what we've been told, Kinect does it's skeletal recognition and audio recognition on the Xbox itself. The original plan was to have it all done on the Kinect/Natal itself - but the processing power required would raise the Kinect's hardware costs - and it would also require a very large memory chip to store all the possible skeletal positions (seeing as Kinect matches what it sees to a pre existing image it has in it's data bank). Instead, that's now all that's done on the Xbox itself, the data banks are stored on the Xbox's memory (about 140MB used I think? Could be random number of mine though ), and it has a much faster processor to crunch the data to try and minimise lag. Save's them a lot of money hardware wise, though means part of the 360's processing power is used up processing this data.

Of course, this means it's going to be a LOT harder for hackers to write drivers, seeing as in reality, the Kinect hardware is simply just that - the hardware. Most of the software crunching is done on the Xbox itsef. So even if you got it to work on the PC, you'd just be left with the raw output data from the sensors - and none of the recognition software the Microsoft use to make that data usable.

I think MS is less against 'tampering' and more against the usage of Kinect for non XBox gaming, because they priced Kinect a bit lower than the cost, hoping to recoup from titles license, just like consoles in general or cell phone contract. And by the time an open source driver completed with minimal documentation, MS can simply release their own, better docs and functionality, tied to .Net APIs

Does anyone else feel as angry as I do regarding what MS said about "product tampering"?? Yeah, coz writing a 3rd party driving is soo tampering and deserves jail time. FFS what has the world come to?!

I agree. This is nothing significant. I'll be more impressed when I can see that the camera is able to see out and someone is able to access the internal software and interface with it using their own software in such a way that we can see that the system is actually tracking some exterior object.

I'm not in the least bit impressed by this. I definitely wouldn't say that it's "hacked". For all we know, they did nothing more than build and install a basic PCM board with a little bit of circuitry on it including an IC with basic programmed instructions to control the Y-axis servos.

I see that they have an RGB readout on the screen... Well that's all well and good. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly is driving the color pickup? An actual image? Or just the basic hex-coded color data streaming through the processor of the unit itself?

Details would be nice. But this is NOT "hacked".

Cyryl The Wolf said,
I see that they have an RGB readout on the screen... Well that's all well and good. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly is driving the color pickup? An actual image? Or just the basic hex-coded color data streaming through the processor of the unit itself?

I think that is just accelerometer data to calculate how far the motor has tilted the unit.

Orange Battery said,

Say Whaaa?


Windows 8 is Rumoured to have a motion detection camera support like Kinect built in. But if you can use Kinect on your windows 7 to control stuff, it will be like have Windows 8 already.

Would love this for the PC - Could do some great things with it. Wasted by being stuck to the Xbox, would have been good if it had worked with something like Windows 7, now there would be an amazing reason to upgrade.

yeah, reading the topic makes it look better than it actually is. so the topic seems to be a little misleading.

because it's not like they can fully use the Kinect device with the current 'hack' from the looks of things.

ThaCrip said,
yeah, reading the topic makes it look better than it actually is. so the topic seems to be a little misleading.

This seems to have become a bit of a trend on Neowin front page now...

ThaCrip said,
yeah, reading the topic makes it look better than it actually is. so the topic seems to be a little misleading.

because it's not like they can fully use the Kinect device with the current 'hack' from the looks of things.

Well there is a valid point to this. They got past the initial security layer at least that prevents access to the device at all. I saw first versions of that security layer in their external wireless adapter.

Wow, they gained access to the motor to move it around. Hacked is a strong is a strong word, especially seeing as there's still no access to the Microphones, camreas & depth sensor. And even then, much of the software and processing code is stored on the 360 itself, so we'd be left with a literal depth sensor, web camera and microphones, with on provisions for noise cancelling, 3D skeletal tracking or face recognition.

The likeliness of this ever properly being done by hobbiest & hackers is likely nill, especially considering the millions of $$ Microsoft invested in leading researchers to create the software that is the heart of Kinect's magic.

~Johnny said,
Wow, they gained access to the motor to move it around. Hacked is a strong is a strong word, especially seeing as there's still no access to the Microphones, camreas & depth sensor. And even then, much of the software and processing code is stored on the 360 itself, so we'd be left with a literal depth sensor, web camera and microphones, with on provisions for noise cancelling, 3D skeletal tracking or face recognition.

The likeliness of this ever properly being done by hobbiest & hackers is likely nill, especially considering the millions of $ Microsoft invested in leading researchers to create the software that is the heart of Kinect's magic.

Never underestimate a hobbyist.

sexypeperodri said,

Never underestimate a hobbyist.

Unfortunately I find it very unlikely that a hobbyist will be able to recreate the recognition software anywhere near the standard and ease-of-use-for-developers that Microsoft was able to achieve after pumping literally millions into ground breaking new research and implementations in the field. Their software detection algorithms are cutting edge, and took many researches a lot of time to make. A group of hobbyists have no chance

~Johnny said,

Unfortunately I find it very unlikely that a hobbyist will be able to recreate the recognition software anywhere near the standard and ease-of-use-for-developers that Microsoft was able to achieve after pumping literally millions into ground breaking new research and implementations in the field. Their software detection algorithms are cutting edge, and took many researches a lot of time to make. A group of hobbyists have no chance

Do you have even a vague idea about how much money the US invested to develop and build the first A bomb?
Well nowadays someone with a basic understanding of phisics could build one in a garage. Thanks God the necessary material is not available. The point is that it takes a lot to develop a concept but, once is done to replicate it is way easier and cheaper.

Fritzly said,

Do you have even a vague idea about how much money the US invested to develop and build the first A bomb?
Well nowadays someone with a basic understanding of phisics could build one in a garage. Thanks God the necessary material is not available. The point is that it takes a lot to develop a concept but, once is done to replicate it is way easier and cheaper.

The US... and other allied countries, let's not forget that! They created the basic science yes, but everyone already knows hte basic science of Kinect, and Microsoft have already explained it many times. Having the resources to write a driver from the ground up with no reference point from the actually code being used in the Xbox, to work with a massive collection of data that Microsoft uses to guess the users next position, also stored on the Xbox, PC hobbiests will be out of luck.

The only conceivable way to do it would be to try and port over the data banks Kinect uses for skeletal recognition on the Xbox over to the PC - even that could turn out to be a collosal task.

~Johnny said,

The US... and other allied countries, let's not forget that! They created the basic science yes, but everyone already knows hte basic science of Kinect, and Microsoft have already explained it many times. Having the resources to write a driver from the ground up with no reference point from the actually code being used in the Xbox, to work with a massive collection of data that Microsoft uses to guess the users next position, also stored on the Xbox, PC hobbiests will be out of luck.

The only conceivable way to do it would be to try and port over the data banks Kinect uses for skeletal recognition on the Xbox over to the PC - even that could turn out to be a collosal task.

LOL data banks. This sounds like a crappy science fiction movie.

Mike Chipshop said,
$2000! Is that all!

Considering someone would have done it anyways for nothing its just extra cash in the pocket and an easy way to push the progress along..

TBH all they are doing is controlling the motor function and detecting/managing orientation, there is no camera functionality etc etc etc involved so thus far it is as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.

On a seperate note, I personally will never purchase one of these devices as I am one of the individuals it discriminates against as I have to use a stick to walk/stand up and I apparently confuse it, as has been demonstrated in my local store who were demoing it. They thought it would be great to show someone with limited movement using it. It failed horiibly, not recognising me at all, due to the extra limbs, and eventually it gave up!!!

As most of the games are mainly around Olympic athletes with all the jumping and twisting around. (I'm exaggerating a bit) but it all is around jumping etc etc etc and the thing wouldn't recognise me when I stood in front of it.

Way to alienate a lot of people microsoft ....

(May I add I am generally a MS fanboy (fanboi?) but in this instance they really dropped the ball, and getting back to the original topic, it still hasn't shown any functionality other than motor control, of which I am lacking, so at least they beat me at the minute

BeLGaRaTh said,
TBH all they are doing is controlling the motor function and detecting/managing orientation, there is no camera functionality etc etc etc involved so thus far it is as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.

On a seperate note, I personally will never purchase one of these devices as I am one of the individuals it discriminates against as I have to use a stick to walk/stand up and I apparently confuse it, as has been demonstrated in my local store who were demoing it. They thought it would be great to show someone with limited movement using it. It failed horiibly, not recognising me at all, due to the extra limbs, and eventually it gave up!!!

As most of the games are mainly around Olympic athletes with all the jumping and twisting around. (I'm exaggerating a bit) but it all is around jumping etc etc etc and the thing wouldn't recognise me when I stood in front of it.

Way to alienate a lot of people microsoft ....

(May I add I am generally a MS fanboy (fanboi?) but in this instance they really dropped the ball, and getting back to the original topic, it still hasn't shown any functionality other than motor control, of which I am lacking, so at least they beat me at the minute

Total BS... "discriminates" is too harsh in my opinion

Remember, this is new technology and it will take some time for it to reach close to perfection

BeLGaRaTh said,
TBH all they are doing is controlling the motor function and detecting/managing orientation, there is no camera functionality etc etc etc involved so thus far it is as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.

On a seperate note, I personally will never purchase one of these devices as I am one of the individuals it discriminates against as I have to use a stick to walk/stand up and I apparently confuse it, as has been demonstrated in my local store who were demoing it. They thought it would be great to show someone with limited movement using it. It failed horiibly, not recognising me at all, due to the extra limbs, and eventually it gave up!!!

As most of the games are mainly around Olympic athletes with all the jumping and twisting around. (I'm exaggerating a bit) but it all is around jumping etc etc etc and the thing wouldn't recognise me when I stood in front of it.

Way to alienate a lot of people microsoft ....

(May I add I am generally a MS fanboy (fanboi?) but in this instance they really dropped the ball, and getting back to the original topic, it still hasn't shown any functionality other than motor control, of which I am lacking, so at least they beat me at the minute

Do you really think that the developers at microsoft literally decided that "yes, we should make the Kinect discriminate against disabled people?"

No. They obviously didn't. It's new hardware, they're trying to push it out to consumers quickly, and it's simply a limitation of the algorithms developed into the motion tracking software. Much of what the Kinect does is state of the art. Give it time and it'll get better.

I don't think a person with no legs or inability to use legs would have been able to drive the first Ford T1 either. Technology eventually came along that made it possible to do that though, given time.

The point is, and no one is hating on you because of your disabilities, but irritation and hatred and misplaced often simply because of misconceptions and generalizations like when I hear people say "Oh, Microsoft are discriminating! We must condemn them!"

BeLGaRaTh said,
TBH all they are doing is controlling the motor function and detecting/managing orientation, there is no camera functionality etc etc etc involved so thus far it is as useful as a chocolate fire-guard.

On a seperate note, I personally will never purchase one of these devices as I am one of the individuals it discriminates against as I have to use a stick to walk/stand up and I apparently confuse it, as has been demonstrated in my local store who were demoing it. They thought it would be great to show someone with limited movement using it. It failed horiibly, not recognising me at all, due to the extra limbs, and eventually it gave up!!!

As most of the games are mainly around Olympic athletes with all the jumping and twisting around. (I'm exaggerating a bit) but it all is around jumping etc etc etc and the thing wouldn't recognise me when I stood in front of it.

Way to alienate a lot of people microsoft ....

(May I add I am generally a MS fanboy (fanboi?) but in this instance they really dropped the ball, and getting back to the original topic, it still hasn't shown any functionality other than motor control, of which I am lacking, so at least they beat me at the minute

House?

BoyBoppins said,

House?

House doesn't have extra limbs.

Yeah and it's pretty much new tech. Wait till Kinect 2 or 3 for accessibility features. The corporate goals usually incline towards making as much money as possible first, and then take care of the marginal users, if needed. LOL I am pretty sure they already have the tech internally for accessibility, because that's what these corporations do. Intel is probably the biggest one that has products ready for at least 3-4 years in the future. They just don't release it now, because they want to suck as much juice out of the Core processor family now as possible.

Edited by Jebadiah, Nov 8 2010, 9:56am :

BeLGaRaTh said,

(May I add I am generally a MS fanboy (fanboi?) but in this instance they really dropped the ball, and getting back to the original topic, it still hasn't shown any functionality other than motor control, of which I am lacking, so at least they beat me at the minute

Yes, because it's all about you.

BeLGaRaTh said,
...

My son has Cerebral Palsy and uses a 4-wheeled walker.

We were playing Kinect Adventures this weekend, and he was able to stand inside his walker and jump and twist and wave just fine, and it was the first time I was able to play games with my son.

I cried with joy for a long time after that, and look forward to the end of each workday just to spend time with him, and Kinect.

dotf said,

We were playing Kinect Adventures this weekend, and he was able to stand inside his walker and jump and twist and wave just fine, and it was the first time I was able to play games with my son.

Microsoft Marketing should be calling you. This is WONDERFUL to hear about. 8D

I think MS should be smart and license its Kinnect software or offer an API. Imagine what the devs community will come up with for MS....for freee!

vice le von said,
I think MS should be smart and license its Kinnect software or offer an API. Imagine what the devs community will come up with for MS....for freee!

+1

vice le von said,
I think MS should be smart and license its Kinnect software or offer an API. Imagine what the devs community will come up with for MS....for freee!

They should just make a USB version and paintent the device and be done with it... See what good it makes in the gaming world and make the extra off the hardware,...

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
If it was such a good idea, I'm sure that the people who get paid to think of these ideas would have come up with it and done so.

Yup, and the world is gonna fix itself...

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
If it was such a good idea, I'm sure that the people who get paid to think of these ideas would have come up with it and done so.
What if the people paid to think of these ideas are managed by idiots?

brent3000 said,

They should just make a USB version and paintent the device and be done with it... See what good it makes in the gaming world and make the extra off the hardware,...

It's already a USB device. How else do people with older Xboxes connect it to their console? Also, it's patent not paintent. I do agree though. If they opened it up to the PC through official drivers, the sales of Kinect hardware would skyrocket and it wouldn't cost them very much at all to arrange that. It would hover give the likes of Sony and Nintendo permission to use Kinect on their own consoles, which I don't think Microsoft would ever allow.

TCLN Ryster said,

It's already a USB device. How else do people with older Xboxes connect it to their console?

My bad for the spelling hehee

I thought it had some special "usb" connector? I should have just said Windows 7 Ready to keep it all clear... Made sence to me as i thought about it... Just didnt get all the right info out

vice le von said,
I think MS should be smart and license its Kinnect software or offer an API. Imagine what the devs community will come up with for MS....for freee!

I was wondering why they'd care and put so much effort in to stop being tampering with it because if it gets cracked, more units will sell...
Then it occured to me. Money. They'll develop this for the PC too and try to make even money $$$ off it, such a shame

brent3000 said,
I thought it had some special "usb" connector? I should have just said Windows 7 Ready to keep it all clear... Made sence to me as i thought about it... Just didnt get all the right info out

I bought it and love it. I can confirm there is a 'special' connector. the 360S was built with Kinect in mind, so there is a jack that can power and take usb data built into that console.

The rest of us use a USB/power dongle to connect the device. BTW it's fantastic.

Was literally only a matter of time, and I must say I do look forward to seeing what people can do with it in regards to non-gaming applications, more OS related tasks. Not sure exactly just what those applications are going to wind up being, but IMO it is definitely something that could wind up being very interesting.

Microsoft said,
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.".

WTF - haven't Microsoft and Apple been dragged into court often enough to realise when they sell something then the owner can do what they like with it. Microsoft have ZERO recourse to law enforcement in this instance!

dvb2000 said,

WTF - haven't Microsoft and Apple been dragged into court often enough to realise when they sell something then the owner can do what they like with it. Microsoft have ZERO recourse to law enforcement in this instance!


by 'tamper resistant' i dont think they mean the average joe and bob hacking Kinect, they mean the experts out there who would do it for the masses
their argument could be something like while the kinect hardware belongs to the person who bought it, the protocol etc is a Microsoft intellectual property , something like how it is illegal to distribute programs which crack the DVD encryption or something...