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from the L.A. Times

Microsoft welcomes hackers to Kinect

Kinect, Microsoft's new hands-free gaming accessory for the Xbox, has -- not unexpectedly -- attracted a crowd of hard-core technology geeks.

But of the million (and counting) Kinects sold since they hit shelves Nov. 4, some have been bought by geeks with intentions beyond mere gaming. There are hackers, programmers and experimenters who have gotten the motion-sensing video game controller to do things it was, well, not really meant to do.

These include 3-D object scanning and manipulation, hands-free control of computer applications (reminiscent of “Minority Report”) and hands-free driving on the game Mario Kart. To see some videos of the creative and zany tinkerings, go to kinecthacks.net.

Oliver Kreylos used the gaming device to create 3-D images that can be rotated, which can be seen on YouTube. "By combining the color and the depth image captured by the Microsoft Kinect," the YouTube video description says, "one can project the color image back out into space and create a 'holographic' representation of the persons or objects that were captured."

Microsoft seems to have been caught off guard. Initially it made vague threats to stop "product tampering," but it has since moved to welcome (some) hackers.

Speaking on NPR's "Science Friday" last week, Alex Kipman, Microsoft's director of incubation for Xbox, said Kinect was left open "by design" to allow researchers to create new uses for the gaming accessory.

"As an experienced 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" with the open-source drivers, Kipman said.

He differentiated between acceptable tinkering and "actually" hacking, which Microsoft does not endorse. Unacceptable uses include obtaining algorithms inside the Xbox or using a third device between the sensor and the Xbox as a means of cheating, he said.

The standalone Kinect runs roughly $150 but is also available bundled with the Xbox 360 4GB console or the 250GB console.

To see a demonstration of Kreylos' Kinect tinkering, check below:

 

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-- Shan Li

 
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