November 8, 2010 AT 11:01 pm

The bounty is now $3k – “Software giant says engineer’s linking of camera-based system to Windows 7 PC does not constitute hacking”

Pt 10508-2-1
This is silly, so now we’ve made it $3k – “Software giant says engineer’s linking of camera-based system to Windows 7 PC does not constitute hacking“…

“Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked–in any way–as the software and hardware that are part of Kinect for Xbox 360 have not been modified. What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to interface with the Kinect for Xbox 360. The creation of these drivers, and the use of Kinect for Xbox 360 with other devices, is unsupported. We strongly encourage customers to use Kinect for Xbox 360 with their Xbox 360 to get the best experience possible.”

Previously:

Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products,” a company spokesperson told CNET. “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”.

Microsoft, the Kinect is going to get “hacked” and “reverse engineered” and a lot of people are going to do cool things you never imagined. Kids will use this in their FIRST robotics projects, artists will turn them in to musical instruments and art. That’s the way it is, the way it always was, and will be – it’s a good thing.

Read more about our bounty for Kinect open source drivers here.


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31 Comments

  1. The scale of their myopia is staggering.

    "Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked… What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to interface with the Kinect for Xbox 360."

    Getting Object A to talk to Object C, when Object A is only supposed to be able to talk to Object B, is a hack. No doubt about it.

    What MS is doing here is preemptive (and presumptive) spin control. They don’t want the general public to hear that Kinect has been hacked, because when the public hears that, they will assume it has become horribly compromised — that now these evil "hackers" can stare at them over the internet through the XBox. Or something.

  2. “Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked–in any way”
    Look at the bright side. This might be as close as Microsoft will ever get to saying “oh, this ‘hacking’ they’re doing isn’t such a bad thing after all…”

  3. I think this is completely logical. They’re just clarifying what they said in their first statement: They don’t condone modification of the Kinect (i.e. taking it apart and making modifications to its internals). This is a classic stance for console manufacturers. Now they’re clarifying that they explicitly did not condemn writing a custom USB device driver for the thin. Why is this silly?

    Of course it’s “hacking” in the sense of being a pretty cool hack, which is how we understand it. It just isn’t in the sense of “hacking the hardware”, which is how Microsoft understands it. That’s just semantics.

  4. “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”

    Would you buy a car that has an inaccessible engine, a dealer padlock on the hood? Do they call it “tampering” when I change my own oil?

    It’s sad that more people don’t stand up for their right to use and modify their own machines however they want. Any attempt to lock down or make “tamper-resistant” your hardware should be met with the same outrage you would exhibit if car dealers were to make your car legally serviceable only by the dealer.

  5. @1: I beg to disagree. Analyzing a stream of publicly accessible data is not hacking. If the data stream is encrypted, then the encryption would need to be forced data access, in which case hacking would be involved. Calling sending signals to a publicly accessible sensor “hacking” is a stretch.

  6. “Product tampering”? After you buy it and take it home, whose product is it anyway?

  7. @johngineer,

    No, they won’t assume those evil “hackers” can state at them through the xbox, not most of the regular folks I know anyways. It’s worse than that. Most folks will assume this means you can download fun programs to do all sorts of fun things with them, like when someone “hacks” an xbox or a wii.

    Awesome!!!

  8. Of course, now MS has dug themselves into a hole. If they’d released it with open drivers in the first place, they would have sold many more to people who would only use it for non-Xbox purposes. Now they’ll have to make up some reason for the sales spike once the open drivers are created.

  9. I find it funny how they are taking something that could be awesome pr for them and turning it into a negative. If I had a company that sold hardware x and people made it useful for students and curious minds by making it work with system y I would be happy about it not fearful of it.

  10. I think this is something we have to think about as hardware hackers. Ignorance of the public to what it is we do can in turn hurt the companies that make the devices we want/love to hack. But the good thing is that this will push things even more into the now and hopefully further educate people to what we do. :)

    I still believe if you are not allowed to buy something and make it what you want or make it better then you don’t own the device it owns you.

  11. I started a fund to help formalize the fund… we would love to work together and make this a reality.

  12. MS is right here. The Kinect was not hacked. Neither the kinect itself nor its drivers were modified.

    “Getting Object A to talk to Object C, when Object A is only supposed to be able to talk to Object B, is a hack. No doubt about it.”

    Correct, that is a hack, but the item itself was not hacked. You are confusing what is being said. Separate drivers were written to use the hardware, but the hardware itself was not reverse engineered.

  13. These PR people are being quite silly. They’re getting all this press and WASTING it! Why not start talking about the awesome games that were developed, the fact that this system will get kids out of their seats and that it can be really fun? The preemptive spin control John talks about is spot on…but is a huge waste of time.

  14. As I’ve said before, they’re probably publicly stating this, due to a contractual obligation with PrimeSense. I bet there was verbiage that stated that the Kinect was ONLY to be used for gaming and no other purpose.

    It’s called Due Diligence.

    PS: I still despise Microsoft and the business model I listed above. HACK ON!

  15. RE: nuiman (post #11)

    The fund he’s referring to is not a bounty or money they are giving to the community. They’re trying to raise $10k for themselves before they share what they have. Just wanted to clarify.

  16. Microsoft(in the head).

    LISTEN, I don’t own an XBOX360.

    BUT, if I am able to hook up a kinect to my linux box or my mac, I WILL BUY ONE!

    Thats a sale you otherwise would not have (possibly two).

    Why are you against that?! I want to give you MONEY. Don’t stand in my way!

  17. I’m not seeing how their “this is not hacking” statement means “we are opposed to this”. They’re correctly stating that nobody is tampering with these devices, they’re just making drivers that read them. They say it’s unsupported, which…okay, fine, that’s totally logical. Why should they support it? It’s made for a console. I don’t expect Nintendo to provide Windows or Linux drivers for the Wiimote and I don’t get upset if they say that hardware is unsupported.

  18. BUT, if I am able to hook up a kinect to my linux box or my mac, I WILL BUY ONE!

    Thats a sale you otherwise would not have (possibly two).

    Yeah, I came in here to say the same thing. The more I look at it, the more I want this or something like it. If MS doesn’t want to sell me one I can “hack”, maybe someone else will.

  19. Maybe MS doesn’t want people do use the Kinect for things other than games because they’re taking a loss on the hardware sales, but hoped to make it up in games.

  20. I agree that Microsoft is right this statement and wrong the previous statement, given the terminology they use and what they think it means.

    The open source drivers never would have been “modifying” a kinect, only creating software to allow it to work on other platforms. Of course both modifying a kinect and creating software for it for other platforms are both laudable goals IMO.

    Creating open source drivers for kinect may modify what you’re using it for and for what purposes you can use it, but it doesn’t change the device itself the way flashing new firmware to it or opening it up and soldering things to it would.

    So they’re right, and they’re wrong, depending on how you define hacking. They probably think of hacking as just the physical modification, maybe specifically cracking.

    I still don’t understand whether they find something distasteful in someone opening one up and modifying the hardware, and if so, why.

    So yeah, it’s silly. :)

  21. If you follow the argument, you could also say mswindows 7 is not real software either.

  22. $10k strikes me as a little greedy for what appears to be 3 days work.

    /:

  23. @dsvrabraa This is much more than 3 days of work… you have to consider this is only the beginning to a long road ahead to create a stable X Platform driver as well as the much more complex tasks such as tracking.

  24. It’s not just the FIRST kids who are going to use these depth cameras on robots. Depth cameras (and other framerate 3D sensors) have been a mainstay of robotics for _years_:

    http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/03/28/low-cost-depth-cameras-aka-ranging-cameras-or-rgb-d-cameras-emerge-2010
    http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/06/20/low-cost-depth-camera-update-microsoft-kinect-november-others-follow-shortly

  25. It’s not just the FIRST kids who are going to use these depth cameras on robots. Depth cameras (and other framerate 3D sensors) have been a mainstay of academic robotics for _years_. But you’re right, having inexpensive depth cameras is going to be huge for robotics:

    http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/03/28/low-cost-depth-cameras-aka-ranging-cameras-or-rgb-d-cameras-emerge-2010
    http://www.hizook.com/blog/2010/06/20/low-cost-depth-camera-update-microsoft-kinect-november-others-follow-shortly

  26. The bottom line is this…

    You purchase an item YOU OWN IT. period. you are not renting it. you can take a sledge hammer to it if you wanted. IT IS YOURS.

    Apple tried (and is still doing) this with their products I.E. the Iphone/pad/pod but locking the system and only allowing “approved” apps on to it. Hackers have been “jailbreaking” and unlocking them since the first incarnation of the items..If I buy an Iphone/pad/pod I will dang sure use it how ever i dang well please I OWN IT, I’m not renting it from Apple.

    If someone wants to use/take apart/modify what they OWN for what they want then it is their prerogative and right to do so.

    Just my two cents, take it for what it’s worth.

  27. I’m all for the reverse engineering. But did anyone read Microsoft’s comments there and realize they’re coming from a TOTALLY different angle? It sounds like their fear is having the kinect hacked over xbox live to become a webcam spying on kids in their living rooms. They’re totally OK with people hooking it up to a PC intentionally and using it for other purposes, as far as I can tell. It’s just “unsupported”, which I assume we’re all totally OK with.

  28. kinectman said:
    I started a fund to help formalize the fund… we would love to work together and make this a reality."

    Joshua Blake said:
    "The fund he’s referring to is not a bounty or money they are giving to the community. They’re trying to raise $10k for themselves before they share what they have. Just wanted to clarify."

    dsvrabraa said:
    "$10k strikes me as a little greedy for what appears to be 3 days work."

    cm said:
    "This is much more than 3 days of work… you have to consider this is only the beginning to a long road ahead to create a stable X Platform driver as well as the much more complex tasks such as tracking."

    @cm – I don’t see where they have committed to do any such thing if they raise the $10,000. As far as I can tell they have what Adafruit is willing to pay for, but the offered bounty isn’t enough.
    Personally I hope someone else works out the details first, collects the Adafruit bounty, and undercuts their whole scheme.

  29. How will the perverted control freaks at Microsoft cope with someone, somewhere, possibly using a piece of Microsoft’s “property” in a manner not explicitly in a corporate memo somewhere (in triplicate)?

    Will they
    A) Recognize that open general use hardware is a good thing, and change their ways;
    B) Hire ninja assassins to hunt down and kill the offending users; or
    C) Lock up future hardware so tightly that is doesn’t work at all for anybody under any circumstances (and then wonder why nobody buys the crap).

  30. "Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering."

    Oh, right. They did *such* a good job on the xbox! MCPX, Visor, and MIST bugs made it easy for the Free-X to build a Linux installer. They offered to help MICROS~1 to fix the gaping security holes in returned for a signed Linux loader, but MICROS~1 didn’t want to fix (or admit) anything. They’re completely incompetent at avoiding "product tampering" of any sort, and always will be.

  31. And this is why I do my best to avoid products that are locked down.

    People like CaptHalJordan complain about being locked down, yet advocate jailbreaking. You know what this accomplishes? The companies continue to lock it down.

    We need is a few products that aren’t locked down to do very well to demostrate consumer demand… or we can continue to show that we like being locked down (consoles, your example) since they’re all doing well. So as a company, why bother changing? You’re selling plenty units well, minimizing copying, selling overpriced hardware.

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