Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Kinect - (Unknowingly to Microsoft) Designed to be Hacked

Last November I became very excited when I saw what was possible with the xbox Kinect.  A Kinect is an Xbox accessory that has a bunch of sensors and cameras making 3D vision possible and affordable.  I made a post with some of my favorite links in this blog post.  Tonight I attended a meetup with presentations of current Kinect hacks, I find it to be an intriguing space as it gives users to be able to control an environment without needing to wear or hold any piece of equipment.

But let me share my favorite take away of tonight:

In order to develop the Microsoft Xbox Kinect, Microsoft hired the guy, Johnny Lee, who hacked the Wii.  Apparently Mr. Lee wanted Microsoft to have the platform open to outside developers but the company did not like that idea.  When the product was released a private organization, Adafruit, released a $3,000 bounty to hack the Kinect.  Within 24 hours it was hacked and the community started to thrive.  Microsoft threatened to sue those tampering with their product.  Soon enough though, Microsoft backed down.  Mr. Lee ended up leaving Microsoft to work for Google.  Once Microsoft announced they would (finally) be supporting the open platform and development packages, it was announced on Mr. Lee's blog that he had privately and secretly put up the funds for the bounty after he had no success of convincing them internally.

So there you have it, Microsoft hires the hacker of the Wii.  Microsoft does not want their product to be hacked.  Mr. Lee hacks the system to hack the Wii and seed a community of hackers for the Kinect.  Mr. Lee joins Google and continues to live true to the hacker and creative spirit.  The result:  extremely expensive equipment is made accessible and affordable to the robotics and hacker community.  And now innovation and development is accessible to more people and R&D is put into the hands of anyone with access to a computer.  And for that I can say, Kudos, Mr. Lee, my hat goes off to you!

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