back to article Hacker unshackles Kinect from Xbox

An amateur hacker claims to have freed Microsoft's Kinect from the Xbox, a feat that allows him to control the the just-released motion-tracking game device from his Windows PC. The claim was documented in two videos released over the weekend by a member of the Natural User Interface Group. In one, Kinect's motorized-tilt is …

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  1. Goat Jam
    FAIL

    Where on Earth do you start?

    "Microsoft is none too amused by the tinkering of a device that it has spent years to ensure isn't easily tampered with"

    They spent years attempting to "ensure" it is tamper proof and it is cracked before it is even widely available? That's priceless.

    " (we will) continue to make advances in these types of safeguards"

    Perhaps they need to "make advances" in totally different types of safeguards. These ones don't appear to be working very well at all.

    "and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”

    Ummm, what exactly do "law enforcement groups" have to do with this? Yes, I know they are probably referring to the DMCA and this guy is ILLEGALLY BRAKING MAH ENCRYPTIONS!!! but for gods sake guys, get real. As the article says, courts in the US have already recognised jailbreaking as legal, and this is essentially what this guy is doing. Besides, who are they going to sue? From the NUI website "The NUI Group is a global research community" Do MS think that the DCMA applies to the entire planet perhaps? Probably.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      riiiight

      so give enough stick and script kiddies will flock to the challenge. Then when it is in the open domain what will M$ do? Why bother in the first place?

      1. StooMonster
        Headmaster

        skiddies

        Script kiddies won't rise to the challenge because they don't hack or reverse engineer anything, they simply run scripts or programs written by others which is why it's a derogatory term.

    2. Octopoid

      What's the point?

      Wholeheartedly agree. What's the point? Anyone buying this to use as a webcam at £130 would be clearly sectionable, and there's no software available to use the fancy IR sensors anyway. At most this is going to be something a few people do who most likely own the Kinect anyway, and just fancy trying it out on the PC.

      For that matter, why do games companies still use Securom? Time and time again it's been proven that any game "protected" by it is hacked within minutes of release, usually in exactly the same way as the last. I suppose it prevents some casual copying, but who really copies disks these days? The only people who are doing it just burn a precracked image anyway.

      I prefer the "product safety groups" bit - it's almost like they're trying to insunuate that "hacking" this device is somehow physically dangerous, as if it's going to explode in your face, or digitise you onto the gaming grid or something. Fucking Sark.

  2. slooth
    FAIL

    oooh, a title

    “continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”

    Why do Microsoft think they can stop you from changing something just because they made it? If I buy a car, I can change the wheels, rip out all the airbags (not wise, but it can be done) and even change or alter the engine and no car manufacturer 'comes after you'. Why should a piec of hardware you bought be any different?

    MS et al should really get a grip on how the real world works.

  3. Annihilator
    Alert

    Good grief

    "Microsoft is none too amused by the tinkering of a device that it has spent years to ensure isn't easily tampered with"

    I have to wonder aloud how long this Kinect system has been 'ready for play', but if they *only* held it back to get the DRM right. Just how scared are they of 3rd party controllers??

  4. JaitcH
    Pint

    Don't wind people up: U.S. law only good in the U,S.A.

    MS, et al, know hackers are going to nobble their products.

    Once again hackers demonstrate how good they are whilst MS loses face that they poor coders.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Hell yeah!

    I see no reason for a piece of hardware, that one buys with his own hard-earned cash, to be only usable with what Redmond decides it can. If a toy can have serious uses, so it will.

  6. stucs201

    Whats the problem

    So, the market for this glorified web-cam is now potentially increased from xbox owners only to xbox and pc owners. As long as the hardware isn't cloned this is surely a good thing for microsoft.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    DMCA applies?

    I don't see how the DMCA can apply, what copyright will be breached by the control of a peripheral input device??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: DMCA applies?

      It applies to prevent publishing of how to do it along with a handy software utility that takes all the work out of doing so...I think.

      They would of course be shooting themselves in the foot. Not that that ever stopped them.

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      M$ are also missing a trick here. If people are interested enough to break into these devices, then there is another market. They would do better to facilitate modders etc. instead of alienating them.

      Oh right, it's about control, not market forces or freedom. Bummer.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Pirate

      Re: Hell yeah!

      They're pissed because they would charge 10 times as much for an almost identical product aimed at business customers.

    4. Goat Jam
      Thumb Up

      They clearly sell it at a loss

      and hope that they make up the difference in software licence fees. If hackers buy them at below cost and use them to do, whatever, without MS getting a cut then their business model goes out the window.

      Serves them right. If you can't sell it for an honest price up front then you are doing it wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Goat Jam

        re: If you can't sell it for an honest price... etc...

        Do you own a mobile phone?

        Did it cost £500?

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Did it cost £500?

          No it cost more then that, because it came with a 2 year contract that cost 30 a month so that would be 720. They don't just sell you the phone below cost and hope you will use it on their network.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Tom

            That was kind of my point - the phone usually costs next to nothing because you're locked in to using it with a particular network (at least for the duration of the contact.) In the case of consoles or console add on hardware, you're locked in to using that hardware how the manufacturer wants, or buying only software which has paid a royalty to the console maker, in exchange for it costing next to nothing (in real terms.)

            As it happens, I don't think that this device being cracked serves much potential other than cool points for the hacker, it's certainly interesting but I can't see any use for it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Reply to post: @Tom

              "As it happens, I don't think that this device being cracked serves much potential other than cool points for the hacker, it's certainly interesting but I can't see any use for it."

              Really? I can think of one big use for these if they can be easily accessed from the internet...

              See "http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/16/secret_student_pics/" for an example idea.

        2. Goat Jam

          Mobile Phone

          The answers to your questions are:

          Yes and yes

      2. Just Thinking

        No

        They sell it at a profit AND they want profit from the software licence fees.

      3. streaky Silver badge
        Pirate

        Markets..

        "If people are interested enough to break into these devices, then there is another market"

        You're right in principle, but it isn't the PC gaming market which is probably what has Microsoft worried.

        But yeah I really don't like the approach some companies take if you want to use something for some other thing that maybe they didn't think of - see you in court! *patent what you did*

      4. Stephen Bungay

        I agree with Goat Jam

        And to Fraser, yes I own a mobile phone and yes it cost as much as a new laptop (which is ridiculous), but it is the cell phone service provider's game and in order to get an unlocked phone that can be used (almost) anywhere you have to pay the price. The nice thing about it is I am not held hostage for things like ring-tones and applications, which I can (and do) create for myself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Stephen

          You are held hostage, you have to pay a randsom in order to get your phone freed from a network. The only difference is that they let you move to a different provider for a fee, whereas console hardware manufacturers don't let you. My point is that both seem to be a basically fair way of selling a product, assuming that you understand the cost model prior to purchse.

          As an aside - I've never paid more than about £20 above the cost of my monthly contract for a phone (even smartphones) what's with people spending hundreds on them?

    5. TenDollarMan

      exhasut pipes

      Actually, slooth, that's not true.

      In the 70s there was a spate of prosecutions by car companies of aftermarket exhast pipe manufacturers.

      You see, they claimed to have copyright in the design plans for the exhaust pipes, which was being illegally infringed by aftermarket manufacturers.

      Still, its total madness. When I buy anything, I reserve the right to fark with it. Its a fundamental property right. They sold it, I bought it, its mine.

      The only way M$ can legitimately do this is to lend you the kinect hardware like an ISP lends you a router.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not exactly the same...

        The difference there is that these companies were copying a protected product and selling it for profit, or that's the gist of the story from what I read in your comment.

        That's a completely different kettle of fish from buying a piece of hardware and messing around with it in the privacy of your own home.

        1. Arctic fox

          @Not exactly the same. Sorry, actually yes.

          The car manufacturers of the period tried to exploit the law so as to be able to claim that all spare parts produced by patten part manufacturers which could be used to replace any original parts on your car if they were for the same purpose however different they were otherwise were in fact illegal. Yes some pattern parts were exact copies of the originals - so what. If I buy a computer from Asus and decide to change their screen card for something from MSI - that's my business. Otherwise the original manufacturer is claiming that he is entitled to control your property in perpetuityl

    6. CmdrX3
      Coffee/keyboard

      Not really

      The fact that someone has hacked the connect does not really reflect bad coding on Microsoft's part. If that was the case then, we could also assume that the programmers at Sony, Nintendo, Apple, etc. are equally bad programmers as several of their devices have also been hacked as easily.

      The problem is that there is usually quite a lot of code, and as many people if not a lot more that are equally determined to crack the devices as the companies are to secure them. There are a lot of extremely talented individuals in the world and companies will always find there is someone better out there who doesn't share their goals and aspirations.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        and that

        "There are a lot of extremely talented individuals in the world and companies will always find there is someone better out there who doesn't share their goals and aspirations."

        In a nutshell explains why big business has run the education system into the ground.

    7. John Bailey
      Alert

      It seems they have reconsidered the definition of hacking.

      The latest news is that MS have back-pedalled a bit, and accessing the device from a non Xbox is apparently not hacking. Lovely quote from MS on the adafruit.com blog.

      Adafruit response.. Bounty is now $3000. And people are talking about setting up a donation process to get it even bigger.

      Wild guess here, but it sounds more like an over enthusiastic PR/Legal employee got his knickers in a twist at the thought of "teh l77t Hax0rs" taking over a kinect, and using it to declare global thermonuclear war. And MS are desperately trying to distance themselves from this twit.

  8. Nigel Brown

    Team America - World Police

    Fuck yeah!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    What's Kinect?

    is it like a PS2 Eye Toy?

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    FAIL

    I don't get it.

    Why do MS give a stuff?

    For every Kinect hacked and attached to something else they sell an extra Kinect. If someone wants to play Xbox games they still have to buy an Xbox, regardless of whether a Kinect can or cannot be connected to a PC.

    Now it's entirely possible that Xbox games are being hack to run on PC hardware, I don't know, but if so, the presence or not of Kinect isn't going to change this and the sort of people who do this sort of thing aren't going to give a flying f*** that the Kinect hack ain't legit.

  11. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Pint

    MS playing catch up again

    Can't say it bothers me much, I do own a 360 for playing Fallout games, but watching MS pathetic attempts to play catch-up yet again, with all the major industry bods is priceless, in this case Nintendo with their Wii. Sorry, but the cute family games market was cornered by Nintendo yonks ago. The PS3 and 360 are seen as big lad's toys, full of "shootin' 'N' lootin' " type games, an image that MS PR cultivated and now they want to shake it off!

    1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Not quite...

      MS realised that the Wii controller was a step change in how people can control games.

      The Kinect will be used for other games, eventually, including "big lad's" games. Imagine playing a FPS with it, it'll be a big change to get used to but will be a lot of fun. I can also imagine it just being a step down the road, although I can't yet imagine what the next step will be...

      As for the article: Good news about the search for a hack. It could be VERY useful in grown-up scenarios. Even something as simple as controlling your HTPC with a few gestures. This tech is wasted on a games console!

      This is just like the PS3: an incredibly powerful piece of kit... just for playing games? Nah, lets buy a ****-load of them and make a supercomputer!

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Dunno, but I can guess...

      I guess it's like the PS3: They subsidise it, and make their money back in the games. If it's hacked to work on the PC, they won't make their money back, so they make a loss on each one sold for a purpose other than intended.

      That said: Tough shit Microsoft (and Sony)

    3. Goat Jam

      See other post

      Re: Selling it at a loss

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Imagine playing a FPS with it, it'll be a big change to get used to but will be a lot of fun."

        really?

        Can't see it myself. If I wanted to stand around waving pretend guns at people, why would I need a games console?

      2. Octopoid

        Not quite not quite...

        Sadly, there likely won't ever be an FPS for Kinect. It's just not accurate enough to detect your fingers, hence no trigger. Of course, it does have voice detect, so you could always shout "BANG" or "PEW-PEW-PEW". (If anyone ever does this I may never stop laughing.)

        Then there's the aiming. Hold your arms in front of you, as if you were holding an assualt rifle. Now move your front hand left and right WITHOUT moving or re-angling your rear hand. Doesn't make any sense does it? How does the software cope with this, bearing in mind that when pretending to hold a gun, your hands are NEVER in the correct alignment. Much as MS would never admit it, the aiming just wouldn't work properly.

        Then there's the other controls. How do you walk, run and strafe? Actually doing so requires far too much space, not to mention the fact the the "world" (i.e. the TV) would then move in the opposite direction. Running on the spot would just be stupid, and doesn't really solve strafing. Remeber, all of the games annouced for Kinect so far are on rails, with good reason.

        Lets take another example of "big lad's" games - racing games. I've seen someone else breathlessley imagining the possibilities of Forza with Kinect. I'd be inclined to disagree.

        1. You have to stand up, an instant fail for any racing game.

        2. There are no sensible controls for the pedals, and no controls for any other actions at all.

        3. Most steering wheel and pedal kits fail because they cannot be mounted securely to a surface, making the game VERY hard to control. This obviously suffers from this.

        4. The "wheel" is totally weightless, leading to a complete loss of any tactile feedback.

        5. You have to spend valuable (for pro racing) brain cycles remembering to keep your hands at a fairly fixed radius, and at an exact 9-3 position.

        6. Because of the limitations of the controller, you have a maximum (comfortable) steering lock of 90 degrees, resulting in twitchy, oversensitive controls.. That's right, you need more elbows.

        7. It makes you look like a total clunge.

        7 was just for fun. But quite seriously, this could easily be the single worst racing control scheme ever, and I don't see the FPS one stacking up any better. And it really does make you look a TOTAL clunge.

        For all of MS's waxing lyrical about this being the most revolutionary controller EVA, I really can't see it. It looks fun, for a little while, but I'll be VERY surprised if Kinect ever gets any real adoption, or support. In 12 months time it'll likely be all but forgotten. If MS were a bit more confident of it's sucess, of course, they would charge more like it's market value (about £40, I reckon) and re-coup the money through the high volumne of software sales they will make, right? I mean, it's not like they started to think that no-one would buy any other games for it, and they better grab all the cash up front, right?

        Whatever you think about the "Kinect = EyeToy" argument, you can't really argue with the fact that they are setting out to do the same thing. Both intend to let you control a game with your whole body. Sony eventually realised that without buttons you loose direct, instant control, you loose tactile response, and most importantly, you loose the ability to navigate menus sensibly. You talk about gestures, but how long do you really think you'd control your computer by waving your whole arms about like a lunatic? Almost every succesful invention and innovation ever created takes a task, and allows you to do it whilst exerting less physical effort.

        This is nothing like the PS3 - it's not at all powerful, or revolutionary, or even new really, (does bolting a couple of over the counter components onto an existing product count as new these days?) but has been put to a reasonably clever use fulfilling a single small niche. In fact the only bit of your comment I do agree with is that it's probably better for doing other things than playing games.

        P.S. - I hope I'm wrong, because I care not for silly manafacturer loyalties. If this is good, I'll buy one, no questions. I just can't see how they will overcome such vast and obvious limitations in any kind of sensible fashion.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not quite not quite...

          I agree.

          It seems to me that Kinect is virtual reality without the virtual reality.

          "move around like you're in the game" they say, but not too much or you will stub your toe on something.

          Though I do find it interesting that next years hot new "games" are going to end up closely resembling something out of 1984. I don't want my television forcing me to exercise.

    4. The Indomitable Gall

      Exactly.

      MS aren't losing any competitive advantage, as it's still their hardware and no-one's going to port this to the PS3. It will be used by a minority of researchers and hobbyists to experiment with various cool, silly and often downright pointless ideas. And on PCs running Windows, to boot.

      Let it be.

    5. Argh

      Someone upvoted that comment?

      It's not much like a PS2 Eye Toy, technically. Or even a PS3 Eye.

      It's a motorised camera / microphone unit that also provides depth information with IR. The depth information is the key differentiator and what makes it unique. There's an interesting YouTube video showing a room using Kinect through IR goggles. The room is filled with dots of IR light.

      The reason Microsoft don't want people to hack it is that they likely sell it for a loss. Robotics engineers, for example, would probably love to put one of these on their devices, as the current commercial alternatives cost a lot more. Microsoft would effectively be subsidising them :)

      I'm not sure how well that would work though, after reports that Kinect really only works 6ft+ from the camera (and the previously mentioned YouTube video confirms that the dots only start at about this distance away).

      It will be interesting to see how much of the depth calculations and gesture recognition are performed in the device and how much on the CPU/GPU of the Xbox360.

      1. Octopoid

        Not so sure.

        Well now - a steam train and a diesel electric don't really share a lot of components or build techniques, for example. Beacuse they both set out to achieve the same goal, they are both trains. From that standpoint at least, this is "a type of EyeToy" - it aims to allow you to control games with your whole body. Telling consumers otherwise is misleading, as when they get it home and try it, they'll realise they're bobbing about in much the same way they were with their old EyeToy - it just works better.

        From a technical standpoint, it does work totally differently, seemingly not really even using the webcam component for most stuff, instead relying on the IR bits. I'd have to say I don't expect MS are selling this at anywhere near a loss. The mic is no different to the PS mic, and although decent, is not an expensive component. The motorised angling is also not going to be expensive to set up, when the product is designed from the ground up at least. The webcam itself is almost of no value at all these days. The IR would have certainly cost R&D a fair bit to get calibrated and working correctly, but the components? IR emmitters and recievers cost virtually nothing, hence why they are used in remote controls so widely.

        I think the cost is partly to cover MS's R&D for this, because like it or not, others will make similar kit using their designs - it's just a matter of time really. I suspect the other part of the price tag is to try and protect against the probability of customers buying one, then never buying any games for whatever reason, much like what happened with the EyeToy. Of course the reason why no-one bought any EyeToy games was because few were ever developed, and the main reason developers quoted for this, was that you can't set up working control schemes for most games which will work inside a living room. Kinect does not really change this.

        I dunno, MS might manage to do a bit more with this, but they will have to push - developers are unlikely to flock forward to develop for Kinect of their own free will, as its a massive risk until proven, something which the launch has in no way done. I can't really forgive the launch titles for Kinect - simply because Microsoft own their very own games studio! If that's the best they can manage, or they're not willing to donate more resources for such a "pivotal" launch, then why am I supposed to have any confidence?

  12. John Sanders
    Linux

    Me Confused(tm)

    I do not understand why MS cares what do I do, or where do I plug a physical device I buy, it is not that I can copy it and upload on the web.

    At the end of the day it is like the regular Xbox console controller that actually has a driver for windows, this translates on more controllers sold.

    If I'm a competitor (Sony) I won't have any problem taking it apart anyway.

    So then... what is it? MS want to charge developers for allowing Kinect on PC games or what?

    1. mfraz

      Sales

      I think that the reason Microsoft are concerned is that they are selling Kinect at a loss and hope to make the money back on software purchases.

      If everyone goes out and buys a Kinect and hacks it to connect to their computer, they won't be buying any software.

      Personally I can't wait for this to be included in the Linux kernel so we can all use them.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    if my memory serve my correctly, ....

    ... didn't MS promise that the Kinect would be available for both the Xbox and PC (Windows)? Why worry about cracking it when the Windows driver is on its way? (note, the cracker is running it on _Windows_). In fact the API to program for the Kinect is expected to come out _someday_ (hopefully soon).

    any way, I really am looking forward to homebrew programs for the Kinect.

    Hummmmm... makes me wander how will the Japanese eroge maker Illusion going to react to the Kinect on the PC ;-)

  14. johnvile

    If you bye something its yours.

    To take apart until it breaks.

    I wonder if Microsoft would give a shit if this guy posted a video of a failed attempt?

  15. dave 46
    WTF?

    Deep in the bowels of redmond

    Some developers look at each other and say wtf, tamperproof wasn't on the spec sheet.

    And why would it be? Oh noes someone can use my input device.

  16. irish donkey
    Go

    Can we have the PS3 argument again?

    You aren't allowed to jailbreak stuff because it kills babies.

  17. Drefsab
    Jobs Horns

    Title is loading ████████████ 99%

    I find this funny writing a device driver is hardly tampering, would you call using a 3rd party driver for your wireless card because the manufacturer doesn't put one out for windows 7 tampering? I certainly wouldn't.

    Microsoft make money on the hardware they should have made windows drivers for all their hardware, but they seam to only be half arsed with it, for example they make drivers for the 360 usb and wireless pad, but they dont make ones for the chatpad you use with the same pad.

    Its in microsoft's interest's to make things like this seamless and support from hardware from pc to xbox and visa versa but they are dropping the ball. The fact that people are putting up rewards for people to make 3rd party drivers just shows that people want them and MS are just failing to meet that demand. They can be as unhappy as they like but while they fail to meet customer demand things like that will happen.

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot
      Pint

      The reason they hate it?

      Quite agree it's yours, the hardware is sold and the company makes money, where's the problem?

      The truth is almost all hardware is, initially anyway, sold at a loss, hoping to claw back money through licenses on the software and games that run on that hardware. You buy EyeToy, Wii controller, Kinnect, etc, hack it and use it on a PC, they don't get your money for the software on that console.

  18. Magnus_Pym

    "They spent years... "

    ...in making it unhackable apparently. So if they hadn't bothered they could have had this on sale for last Christmas? They could have beat Sony to the market and made a killing?

    I would suggest that was probably time poorly spent.

    P.S. I know the Playstation controllers aren't the same thing but it still competes for the same customers at the Christmas sell-athon.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    Mac

    Microsoft should just buy a Mac. Simples.

  20. JBH
    WTF?

    Not sure I understand Micrsoft's opposition.

    Um... call me naive, surely this is a good thing?

    People still have to BUY Kinect right, no matter how they use it, so what's the problem? If somebody comes up with an interesting and compelling use for the device that doesn't involve the Xbox, ie controlling a media centre PC, then that's still more money in Microsoft's coffers right?

    People came up with all sorts of weird and wonderful uses for the Wii-mote, and Nintendo didn't give a toss - because it still made them money.

    If reverse engineering leads to cheap knock-offs then I can understand it being a problem, but Microsoft really need to lighten up and stop annoying their customers. If I buy your stuff, I'll do what the hell I like with it thanks.

    Infact here's a novel idea... embrace the DIY idea. Try ENCOURAGING people to use your technology in new and interesting ways. Hold competitions to see who can make best use of your kit. Your customers will love you for it, and you might even regain some of that cool you're sadly lacking.

  21. Jamie Cole
    WTF?

    I really don't get why they bother

    Title says it all really. I mean I understand why you would spend a lot of cash trying to ensure that your consoles will not play pirated discs and even run homebrew (though I disagree this should be illegal).

    But spending time and money making a piece of hardware only compatible with your machines boggles the mind. Sony would never allow games that use it to be released for the PS3 so I can only imagine they don't want people hooking it up to the PC.

    Why do they care so much that a couple of geeks might hook it up to a Windows/Linux PC and get some telemetry on the screen? Microsoft will make some money selling the hardware and it will not affect their core games sales in any way. A few home brew game apps may appear but it's not likely to make any impact on their XBOX games sales.

    Can anyone enlighten me as to why they are so against this?

    1. bluesxman
      Grenade

      RE: "They spent years... "

      So my options are to jump around looking like a tit or to wave around what looks like a 60s-Futuristic dildo?

      Hold ... me ... back!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bluesxman

        I wa always told those things were, ahem, "back massagers"

        They must have been tampered with or otherwise used for purposes other than the mfr's intended.

        Quick, someone call the DMCA!!!!

      2. No. Really!?
        Thumb Up

        @bluesxman

        Fecking hilarious!

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Alert

      This is a first step

      If someone can work out how to drive the thing, that information would be very useful to someone who might want to make a work-a-like, and deprive Microsoft of hardware sales. I'm not saying that Microsoft is correct in what it is doing, but the reason why they are doing it is not really that hard to see.

      Of course, MS would be able to prevent importation to countries with valid patents, but that would not stop imports from China via Ebay or the like.

      If you look now, you can see non-licensed Wiimote-a-likes, and they are cheaper than the Nintendo originals. The same would happen for Kinect.

      I though that there were several precedents set for reverse engineering. Cases involving garage openers and inkjet cartridges spring to mind, and I believe that they all went against the company attempting to maintain the monopolies.

      1. Daniel B.

        Knockoffs

        From the creators of the Sports VII..

        Here comes...

        The Ki-NEXT!

        I just know it's going to be out there; I've already seen stuff like the Sports VII in a large department store.

  22. Raumkraut

    News at 11

    Man makes hardware he legally bought work with other hardware he legally bought.

    Clearly, the FBI must get involved to prevent such terrorist acts being perpetrated, to protect... uhh, what exactly are Microsoft trying to protect here?

  23. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So it's "restricted" is it ?

    Come now, everybody knows that the XBox is made of PC components. Yes, there are certainly one or two bits that a PC does not have, but Microsoft does not know anything else than Windows, so anything Microsoft makes is forcibly tied to its OS.

    And its OS is made for PCs.

    Agreed, to hack the Kinect hardware the guys had to delve into some DCMA-protected code, but where is the offense ? You can only hack a Kinect when you've bought it, so Microsoft is not losing money there, and the software is useless without the hardware, so again, no financial loss.

    The fact that the hackers are not even based in the USA is irrelevant - their actions cause no harm to company so there is no grounds for legal action, period.

    Ironically, their actions may even be beneficial to the company. I've been discussing this development with a few PC-owning friends I have and we've ended up agreeing that it might be worth trying out the Kinect with a few games, if it can be done. Racing games were the essential interest, apparently, but there is no reason the Kinect cannot become a simple controller for any number of game types.

    So maybe, just maybe, this group has opened the doors to Kinect gaming on the PC - which would boost its sales considerably.

    That would be the ultimate irony.

    I can see the court scene now :

    "Honorable Judge Matthews will now render his verdict. All rise."

    "In view of the irreparable harm the hacker group has caused to Microsoft, I declare that it is fined 20% of the losses Microsoft incurred due to their nefarious activity."

    "Your Honor, Microsoft increased its sales by $250 million in direct relation to their hack."

    "So Microsoft owes the group $50 million."

    And down comes the gavel.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @pascal

      The original Xbox really was PC components. The 360 is quite a different beast, using PowerPC derived processors. I'm sure that it is running a Windows variant under the covers, but this is more likely to be WinCE than XP.

      The rest of the hardware is pretty much generic, but what do you expect? Memory is memory, disks are disks, and even the wireless and controllers will be using off-the-shelf chips. This is the same with PS3s, Wiis and even Macs.

  24. DrXym Silver badge

    Winmodems can be hacked too

    The issue with the Kinect is that the hardware is pretty stupid and much of the motion sensing stuff is done in software. Therefore you could hack the Kinect (which must be relatively simple to do) but it doesn't buy you more than a glorified webcam. I doubt the protocols are protected by anything more than obfuscation and some non-standard extensions to USB. Once you cracked those maybe you could use it as a mic / web cam and I suppose you could use it to make a 3D scanner or something.

    The same issue facing kinect hackers affected winmodems and Linux for years. Winmodems were budget modems which cut corners & costs by moving lots of functionality into the software driver. Aside from increasing CPU consumption it also meant that they didn't work on any OS except windows. People tried various hacks (such as wrapping the winmodem binary and invoking that) but it's still a mess of hacks and partial solutions even now.

    I don't expect the situation to be any different for Kinect. It might be cool to see what hackers can do manage to do with the device though beyond the basics.

  25. Bilgepipe
    Gates Horns

    Eh?

    Wait, what? Tilt? Why does this thing tilt up and down? Weird.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An amateur hacker

    AlexP has successfully removed digital shackles from other heavily locked-down hardware, hacking the PlayStation Eye in 2008

    What does he have to do to become non-amature. personally I think this dude has some L33+ 5k!775

  27. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Possible Microsoft Rationale

    If hackers get to understand how the Kinect works then others can ( and likely will ) produce their own compatible versions for use with Xbox, undoubtedly cheaper than MS, eating into MS sales and profits.

    Reality is likely to be that it's much easier to 'open a Kinect' for use with a PC than to replicate a Kinect for use with an Xbox - there are probably challenge-authenticate handshakes not needed or seen when used with a PC - so MS will likely still be well protected even if PC control is reverse engineered. If not it's an MS fail.

    As to how "hacked" the Kinect is, and the method employed, I think we will have to wait and see. To say DMCA protected code has been examined is speculation; it could have been achieved by simply watching traffic between the Kinect and Xbox. Equally for "tampering"; they may never have opened the Kinect.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Happy

      Agreed

      The easy way is going to be to hack the drivers - hacking the code inside of the Kinect is going to be hard because it's inextricably linking into the hardware and physical properties of the cameras and lenses. It would be much easier to just build the device from scratch - which wouldn't be that hard - I'd expect to see similar systems from all the gaming companies soon if Kinect sales takes off.

      The technology behind what the Kinect is doing is well known - companies have been doing this type of thing for 30 years in the 3D Motion Capture and Movie industry - go look at http://www.c3d.org for a list of just a few of them. A lot of the companies are high end, high accuracy systems (sub-millimeter accuracy) but there's been a huge number of low-end entries in the last few years - and the Kinect is very low end, at least in terms of accuracy. Watching you flop around like a fish in the bottom of the boat is trivial - repeatably figuring out what that means in terms of control signals to external devices is probably that hard part.

      1. The Other Steve

        Drivers for deffo, but where does that get you ?

        REing drivers (especially on MS platforms) is relatively straightforward because they're limited in what they can do, and have fairly predictable internal structure. As has been pointed out though, this doesn't get you much other than the raw data from the various sensors.

        REing or recreating the software stack that turns that raw data into something useful is a task that is orders of magnitude harder. That's the bit that cost the money to develop, and without it all you've got is a novelty webcam on a stick.

    2. DrXym Silver badge

      Heavily locked down?

      I doubt the Kinect is heavily locked down, or the Playstation Eye. Both probably use non standard USB instructions, simply because they're doing things that the standard doesn't cover. They might implement a handshake, some secret challenge / responses (see below) and perhaps a light dusting of crypto or obfuscation. Anything more would require dedicated hardware and even if that added 50 cents to the production cost, that may be prohibitive.

      What do crackers gain if they break the protections anyway? A glorified webcam.

      What about counterfeiters? This is where secret challenge responses might prove useful. If fake Kinects / PSEyes appear in the wild, the console could issue the device with a secret challenge. If it fails the challenge, the device can be blocked out. The challenge would be issued by the console so it wouldn't stop crackers, but it would stop counterfeit devices from functioning when connected to the console. I'm sure MS or Sony could also utilize physical or software characteristics of a genuine device to perform more tests of their choosing.

    3. DrXym Silver badge

      Not really a concern

      I expect Kinect is swathed in patents and there would be enough physical and possibly software behavioural differences that they could craft tests that block out 3rd party or counterfeit versions. Sony did something similar with fake Dualshock controllers.

    4. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Poacher turned gamekeeper

      With electronics, it's one thing to know how it works or reverse engineer it, another to design it.

      Just like someone who can repair or modify cars isn't automatically a car designer.

  28. DrStrangeLug
    Happy

    I know why

    The Kinect is being sold at a loss, with MS making money back from licensing for the titles. If people start buying it without buying any of the games then they lose.

    What they don't want is other people write (for example) a sign language reader and packaging it up with the hardware they've sold at a loss.

  29. Ef'd
    IT Angle

    Microsoft's handling this poorly, sure...

    Sure Microsoft's handling this poorly, but they may be selling the Kinect peripheral at cost or at a loss to get people to buy 360's. They may even have plans to sell it for the PC eventually, charging for the driver/software in the process. Also they may be concerned with a third-party effort since it will not perform as well as it would with their own software.

    ..just sayin'

  30. FordPrefect

    How does this hurt microsoft?

    I really fail to understand the harm to microsoft so long as nobody is cloning the hardware without paying a massive royalty charge? Infact this could potentially lead to it being useful for windows, linux and mac so surely that would increase the potential market for the device whilst not in anyway harming the core xbox 360 market?

  31. M Gale

    If you don't want people doing what they want with it...

    ...don't develop it, don't produce it, and definitely don't sell it.

  32. JDX Gold badge
    Unhappy

    blah blah

    1)Nice work from the hacker, I am always impressed by such things

    2)MS are not somehow lame at making something that can be hacked/cracked. EVERYTHING gets hacked because the hacking community is smart, experienced, and large. Wiimotes have been made to work on the PC for example

    3)I also don't see why they are kicking up a big stink, it's free publicity that people want to use their stuff. Unless they want to block 3rd-party versions of Kinect being created, hurting their sales, perhaps?

    4)Companies outside software CAN dictate how you use their products, or at least tell you your warranty is invalid if you use 3rd-party parts, etc. If you agree a license saying "I won't do X" then you can't do X... however silly the individual clauses might be (within legal limits)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Subsidized hardware

    Microsoft's problem is that the hardware on the Xbox is HIGHLY subsidized. They need applications (which are locked, and under the influence of the DMCA) to recover the costs of the hardware. If one buys the hardware and DOESN'T buy the applications, they lose money, like all of the Xbox division has for quite some time. If they get people to break into the hardware and NOT buy the applications it doesn't bode well Microsoft, so they MUST play the DMCA card.

    Thank goodness there are wonderful people who do "jailbreaks" on all sorts of devices. It just means we can use them AS WE WISH, not as Microsoft wishes!!

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Losses

      They effectively lose more money if you don't buy it.

      If they build lots of hardware and nobody buys it then their bank balance shows $0 sales. If you buy it (even at a loss) then they have some cash in the bank.

  34. LinkOfHyrule
    FAIL

    I own it, i'll do wtf I like with it!

    If companies don't want us tampering with their stuff then don't sell it to us - otherwise shut-up, please!

    And if it's true that they are selling the thing at cost or a loss then I only have one thing to say to that... Ha-ha!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      That's rather the point though isn't it?

      Do you actually own it or is it licenced to you for use under specific terms and conditions?

      Does it have an EULA which you have to accept (in some cases inside the box with the clever wording of "if you open the box you accept the EULA" although I think that practice may have been stopped recently)

      In any case I think you have to agree to the T&C's and if you don't then you can get a refund (good luck with that!)

      As others have said these are probably being sold at a loss to increase the more lkucrative software sales.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Licence agreements

        Licence agreements are for software not hardware.

        Hardware would be covered by a loan agreement or lease if you weren't actually the full owner of the unit.

        1. Jeremy 2

          Actually...

          The first time you power up an Xbox 360, doesn't it 'ask' you to accept an EULA? I seem to remember so...

          Now I suppose the EULA might relate to the software it contains rather than it's hardware (I can't say I actually read it...) but given that you can't actually use the hardware until you agree to the EULA, use of the hardware is clearly dependant on accepting it, whether it states such or not.

  35. Rogerborg

    He's not amateur, he's professional

    Sells various hacked PS3 gubbins. Thus the filthy hippies wailing that he won't release the source code. My God, that makes him Worse Than MicroHitler!

  36. David Neil

    Knock offs

    Surely if someone does make a knock off MS will just block it with a software update, like they did with 3rd party memory cards?

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot
      Thumb Up

      MicroHitler?

      LOL! Visions of a little brown suited bobble-head standing next to the Churchill dog, on the car parcel shelf! Priceless!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Clearly any PR

    about selling X amounts of Kinect is worthless, as many won't be plugged into Xboxes (mainly because the games suck badly and the hardware is very broken)

  38. Jesthar
    FAIL

    These bytes were made for cracking

    Given that the first programmable digital computer in the world (Colossus) was brought into existance for the sole purpose of cracking hardware based encryption (the Lorenz cipher), one has to wonder why Microsoft are surprised that the oldest historic computing tradition continues... ;)

  39. max allan

    UPDATED NEWS : Do they care?

    Microsoft issued the following statement: "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."

    So what they are saying is that to hack something you have to change it's hardware or software. This distinction may come back to bite them/their peers.

    "I didn't change your code to play that game without a serial, I wrote my own and put it in a wrapper around yours, therefore it's not a hack"

    "I didn't hack my iPhone, I'm just running my own code on it instead of yours"

    etc...

    Obviously whoever made that quote has no clue what "hacking" entails.

  40. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
    Boffin

    I think probably...

    MS's objection is to the reverse engineering of the cryptographic obfuscation; once this is broken, not only does it allow this device to be used with PCs, etc., but ALSO, allows others to manufacture knock-off versions which will work with the XBox. They will then not be able to charge ridiculous amounts of money for a piece of plastic with a few switches and a webcam in it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What's in the box?

      I would imagine that the Kinect thingy has quite a lot of inbuilt processing meaning that the basic hardware may be easy to clone but the software won't be. That's what will make it difficult for people to make knockoffs. There may even be custom HW in there which will make it even more difficult to replicate.

      Just knowing the USB protocol isn't enough.

  41. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Oh come on

    We know the protocol is likely to be USB based. A proprietary connector won't cause any problems, cut it off and solder a standard USB connector on.

    This isn't DRM circumvention, this is someone using some hard he purchased. If you're a company selling hardware at cost or a loss but subsidising through games prices then tweak your model to include the hardware hackers.

  42. L1feless

    Amateur?

    I would say if this guy has done something like this before as the article suggests he is slightly better than an amateur. Well done I am always a fan of people taking back control of hardware they purchased and own legally. Perhaps Balmer should sell even more shares in M$. A marketing guy running a tech company was always a bad idea.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Can anybody...

    play a game with the Wii remote and Kine-whatever on the PC and compare both on the same platform? Thank you.

    Oooh, direct comparison of quality in neutral ground, who's in for that? Raise hands.

  44. Jemma Silver badge
    FAIL

    Microsoft is dead... long live Microsoft...

    And this is why Ballmer is getting out now...

    Microsoft are on the way out because they are more interested in their IP than they are making profits.

    This guy should be getting money from the company, not being pilloried by them. In days past MS would have employed this guy at a nice salary and put him to developing new applications for the Kinect... but not these days.

    The more people can use the kinect the bigger the market. The 'hacking' of it means the market for it has maybe become an order of magnitude larger, which is only good for MS.

    MS and Apple are two companies who are staring death in the face, because they are essentially one trick ponies. MS sells software that now has valid competition in all markets and is a lost cause in alot of them

    Apple has massively overpriced hardware and software... and now want to control software for laptops and desktop systems using an 'app market' - I used to work in Mac support and I know for a fact that the only reason new computers were bought was because of the bundles sold with them (they were jawdroppingly expensive otherwise). A mobile phone for almost £850 which breaks, loses signal, *still* doesnt do what other competitiors were doing 5 years before, not to mention is sold at a mark up of almost 200%... and its distinction is a UI that was copied for other systems within 3 months of it hitting the market...

    Microsoft is a dead company walking... just a shame it cost us so much money in the interim.

    1. Ef'd
      FAIL

      It's like Godwin's Law for Apple

      Hey bro, thanks for bringing Apple into this. Totally relevant to the story at hand. yup

      1. Jemma Silver badge
        FAIL

        relevant... yes actually..

        Apple are very relevant in this situation - since its probably as a result of their 'sucess' with closed software and hardware that MS have jumped on the bandwagon and in the process helped kneecap what is an already failing business.

        Apple laptops and desktop machines are good if expensive - but then you get what you pay for generally in that department of the empire of jobs...

        I make no bones that I am not a fan of apple products so far as their phones are concerned. They are overpriced, over-controlled, underfunctional pieces of equipment built in sweatshops...

        The problem apple will have, and sooner rather than later, is that the only reason people buy those phones is they are the new craze... once the market is saturated, what are they gonna do next?

        Its the same problem MS face now - there are viable alternatives to all their products pretty much - at half the price - so all MS can do is retrench which is what this 'protect the IP at all costs' is about - but it also means, that when life throws them an easy win, all they can see is something that threatens them because thats all they have been conditioned to see

        so yes, Apple is relevant to this discussion because I think there is a good chance that all this toothgrinding at MS is as a direct result of their thinking that a wall garden mentality is what is making the iTwerp 4 a success... its just that its the current fashion, nothing more...

        A fleet in being approach is never a wise one, and its my opinion that MS are very very close to falling into that position, a position that it is very hard to get out of once you are in it...

  45. Bugs R Us
    Thumb Up

    I, for one, can't wait to air type my emails

    Looking forward tot he day I can type away at a giant virtual keyboard with keys the size of basketball.

  46. Martin Usher
    FAIL

    They really don't get it, do they?

    A smart vendor would have made it something that's widely available, relatively low cost and easy to manipulate using third-party applications. It would then become the de-facto standard and they would be able to enjoy the revenue stream.

    Instead you've got a whole bunch of effort going into making sure it controls a niche market. They'll own the thing, of course -- until someone comes up with something better / faster / cheaper in which case they'll find themselves Zuned.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    bounty upped

    ladyada upped the bounty to $3,000 now. i guess M$ made another threat? heh.

    go open source!

  48. Herbert Meyer
    Alert

    what have they done so far ?

    There is a lot more to how this gadget functions than the communications protocol between small box and big box.

    SOMETHING rather high level in the big box is tracking motion of the image, and turning it into commands.

    That will take a while to RE.

    Perhaps we should read some of MS' tech pubs for clues ?

  49. cybervigilante
    Jobs Horns

    MicroPower and the CorpaGovernment

    Screw Microsoft.

    But what bothers me is this business of private companies using the government as a 600lb gorilla to enforce their private concerns. I've seen this with insurers and state insurance commissions, and just lately, PA used Federal money to fund private companies that then enforced the wishes of selected corporations, by trying to intimidate people who lawfully opposed their plans.

  50. Joe Montana
    WTF?

    Stupid...

    This is basically just a fancier form of control pad... Why do they need to go to great lengths to prevent people using their controllers with other devices?

    Years ago, joysticks and control pads used a standard interface resembling a 9 pin serial port, there were plenty of choices out there and you could easily pick and choose.

    Why should a device like kinect be treated any differently than a mouse or keyboard? it's a peripheral and the more hosts it works with the more of them will be sold. You'd think they might want to promote creative uses of their hardware, not try to limit it.

  51. Graham Dresch

    So why do people think this product is something new ?

    http://www.i4u.com/9526/gomonkey-minority-report-user-interface-without-gloves

    Invented already in 2006 by Gomonkey and Sun

  52. Confuciousmobil
    Go

    pwned

    http://j.mp/cBug2U

  53. Confuciousmobil

    To Clarify

    http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/11/10/we-have-a-winner-open-kinect-drivers-released-winner-will-use-3k-for-more-hacking-plus-an-additional-2k-goes-to-the-eff/

    Marcan won it :)

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kinect is not a loss leader

    http://www.techwatch.co.uk/2010/10/30/microsoft-will-make-a-profit-on-every-kinect-sold/

    "Don Mattrick explained the situation to the New York Times. He said the first Kinect prototype cost $30,000, and now “hundreds of millions of dollars later”, the company can sell it for $150 a pop and “still turn a profit”.

    And that’s despite the $500 million marketing budget behind the motion controller."

  55. chrisjw37
    Grenade

    Evidence of couch potato invasion

    So instead of getting up and using some key muscles, couch potato plc prefers to sit and press keyboard buttons on his/her PC?

    What??????

  56. g00p
    Coat

    i think the most important questio is..

    ..can i make this work with my ps3?

    i don't want to hold the Move's controllers whilst trying to dance like an idiot when returning home on a Friday night blind drunk and deciding games are a good idea.

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