Kinect: Return of the hack

OpenKinect adds motion controls to everything...

Just one week into Kinect's shelf life hackers had Microsoft's new controller up and running on a PC with hacked Linux drivers.

Windows drivers arrived shortly after and bedroom programmers all over the world went crazy with Kinect's motion-sensing tech.

The homebrew software scene had never seen a device like Kinect before and immediately went to work making it do things Microsoft never intended.

Some have it controlling programs in Windows 7, running virtual puppets, and drawing simple shapes with hand motions.

Working with hacked drivers, one programmer built a gesture-operated musical program while another pair of programmers turned Kinect into a foot-operated piano.

YouTube user Yankeyan got Kinect controlling Super Mario in a NES emulator and built a virtual lightsaber, while an MIT student had Kinect providing the eyes for a bloody robot. Madness.

With no official Microsoft drivers everyone is working with homemade code and running early beta applications, but it's a start which will lead to big things.

Full Kinect control in Windows is something Microsoft almost certainly plans for the future; hackers could beat them to it by months.


Already developers are working on mapping Kinect gestures to mouse control and key presses which would allow Kinect to (clumsily) control any PC game or operate PC-based media players.

Under-the-telly home theatre PCs could be built to run using gestures with more flexibility than anything on the current Xbox 360 dashboard. Microsoft aren't fuming the way you'd expect, either.

On the contrary, Microsoft's Alex Kipman explained to America's National Public Radio that this kind of hacking won't be punished. They had hoped it would happen, in fact, and are happy for you to try it.

You should - hit openkinect.org to take your first steps. This isn't actually hacking, you see. Real hacking would involve using Microsoft's own algorithms or interfering with the normal operation of the Xbox.

That, they'll punish with God's own wrath. The minute someone builds drivers from hacked code or makes a program which allows a laptop to sit between Kinect and your 360 (feeding bogus 'perfect' gestures to motion-tracking games, for instance) Microsoft's boys will come knocking.

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