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Kinect 'hacked' to work on computers

John D. Sutter
Kinect's sensors allow people to control games -- and maybe computers -- with motions instead of remotes.
Kinect's sensors allow people to control games -- and maybe computers -- with motions instead of remotes.
  • Hacker makes Kinect work on PCs, not just the Xbox
  • Kinect is a motion-gaming system from Microsoft

(CNN) -- Microsoft's no-remote gaming system, called Kinect, has been hacked so it can be used with personal computers or potentially other gaming systems.

The Redmond, Washington, company designed the motion-sensing device to be used only with its Xbox 360 gaming console. Kinect uses cameras to capture the movements of players' bodies, eliminating the need for the remote controls that have dominated video gaming for decades.

To throw a punch in a boxing game, for example, a player would simply punch the air; Kinect's cameras record the movements and translate them into the digital game.

The hack leaves open the possibility that Microsoft's motion-sensing technology could be used to control computer interfaces, not just games. The technology could have applications for the classroom, in art or in any field where motion-controlled computing would be compelling.

In effect, Kinect could be used to change the way people interact with technology -- creating an alternative to the keyboard-and-mouse set-up that's so common today.

"It's actually surprisingly easy to interface with this device," a hacker says in a YouTube video that shows Kinect working with a Linux operating system. "I think it will be pretty damn good for a lot of projects -- especially robotics."

Microsoft, not surprisingly, isn't happy about the hack.

In fact, the company denies a "hack" even occurred.

"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," the company said in a statement e-mailed to CNN.

"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."

The breach resulted from an "Open Kinect" challenge started by Adafruit Industries, a New York company that makes do-it-yourself electronics kits. The company gave the winner -- a hacker identified in a blog post as Hector -- a $3,000 prize, which he plans to put toward further hacks.

Adafruit says on its blog that opening Kinect is good for innovation.

"We know this subsidized / commodity hardware can now be used for robotics, art, science, education and more. For $150 it's loaded with tons of great sensors and cameras -- now it's unlocked for creativity," the blog says.

The Kinect system, which is an add-on for the Xbox 360, is essentially a motion-capturing camera, a voice sensor and software that makes sense of all this information. Users place that gizmo on top of their TVs and hook it up to the Xbox to enable motion-controlled gaming.

The system went on sale on November 4 and retails for $149 by itself.


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