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Microsoft Input Devices Open Source XBox (Games) Games

$2,000 Bounty For Open Source Xbox Kinect Drivers 274

ptorrone writes "Open source hardware company Adafruit Industries is offering a $2,000 bounty for the first person or group to upload driver code and examples under an open source license to GitHub for the Xbox Kinect released yesterday. The Kinect sensor outputs video at a frame rate of 30Hz, with the RGB video stream at 32-bit color VGA resolution (640×480 pixels), and the monochrome video stream used for depth sensing at 16-bit QVGA resolution (320×240 pixels with 65,536 levels of sensitivity). The open hardware group would like to see this camera used for education, robotics and fun outside the Xbox." The bounty was originally $1,000, but Microsoft's dour response induced Adafruit to double it. ("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.") In addition, the Xbox 360 dashboard update that preceded Kinect's launch contains upgraded anti-piracy restrictions.
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$2,000 Bounty For Open Source Xbox Kinect Drivers

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  • by JonySuede ( 1908576 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:46PM (#34138964) Journal

    Is reverse engineering for interoperability purpose still legal ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:47PM (#34138984)

    Presumably there is cryptographic authentication here that needs to be broken. Sounds like some student's differential power analysis school project is about to get a bit more lucrative... and legally risky...

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:48PM (#34139000)
    Depends how you do it. It's oddly ironic how now when it hurts MS they don't think reverse engineering is such a good idea. Especially since they made most of their money based upon IBM clones.

    Additionally, I like how they're claiming that this has something to do with product tampering.
  • Tampering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:52PM (#34139072)

    Tamper-resistant? You mean, they're trying to stop me from using it the way I choose. Like how the screwdriver manufacturers add elements to the steel to make it so that I can't sharpen the end and make a pin-punch from it? Jeeesh!! What arrogance.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:52PM (#34139074)

    But Microsoft isn't taking kindly to the bounty offer. "Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products,"

    Once you sell one to me, it's my product, morons.

    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.

    What the hell, are these X-ray machines or something with radioactive material in them that would sicken the user if he opened it up?!? I had better be sure thisn't some strange dream.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:53PM (#34139098)

    Whatever happened to people selling devices to other people, so they could use them as they see fit?

    Not providing drivers fro other systems, fine, whatever you like, not your responsibility. Working with law enforcement to prevent 'product tampering?

    Screw you MS, really.

  • bounty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DeadDecoy ( 877617 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:53PM (#34139100)

    Is it me or is 2000$ kinda cheap to hire someone with the expertise required to extract out kinect's source?

  • by BlueRaja ( 1397333 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:55PM (#34139124)
    Of course if this happened, sales of Kinect sensors would go up without sales of Kinect video games going up... and since MS is actually *losing* money on these sensors, suddenly the price of Kinect sensors would go up...
  • law enforcement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:55PM (#34139126)


    I am not licensing this product. Your not renting it to me. I am not leasing it. I am buying it, and I'll do with it what I damn well please.

  • Re:Tampering (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robot256 ( 1635039 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:02PM (#34139250)
    I don't think the screwdriver manufacturers are worried about you making a pin-punch from it. I think they're worried about their screwdriver breaking. If you've ever had the tip on a screwdriver crack off you know what I'm talking about.
  • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:05PM (#34139296) Journal

    Aye. A Kinect would be a great tool/controller for a computer.

    Then again, maybe that's it - they don't want the computer to have one more way to compete with the 360.

  • Re:bounty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rokstar ( 865523 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:05PM (#34139298)
    I'd say that Microsoft making a statement like that will push people into doing it faster. Seems like nothing motivates nerds more than being told that they can't do something by a large company or organization. Forget about money, this is now about ego.
  • Mole hunt (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:06PM (#34139308)

    Twenty or thirty years ago these things were somewhat neat. Now they are corporate mole-hunts. The engineers who designed the platform already have plenty of drivers, written in ten different languages, and probably have software emulators to run in VMs with any of a dozen different kernels.

    What they are doing is mining the community. If anything _really_ good or novel comes up they'll just take it in house, sit on it for a few months, and promptly edge out the submitter--that is standard corporate policy and is the default game played against research associates in any field. As an added bonus if any of the submissions look, smell, feel, or even sound like anything even remotely related to one of those dozens of software drivers that they already have in house then all they need to do is look at friend-of-a-friend links to see who in the research teams is "taking the work home" with them.

    Reality 101.

  • On What Grounds? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by keytoe ( 91531 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:08PM (#34139330) Homepage

    On what grounds can Microsoft even begin to claim any sort of right to restrict reverse engineering this product?

    If they are hoping to invoke the DMCA for circumventing a content protection mechanism, I'd like to point out that these things are essentially a couple of cameras and a mic shoved in a plastic housing. Any content captured by these cameras is, in no uncertain terms, mine as it is me 'performing' in front of them.

  • by denobug ( 753200 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:09PM (#34139346)

    On one hand, yes, it is a hardware. You are please to use it as you see fit.

    On the other hand, the key to Kinect is not the hardware components itself, rather it is the embedded code that brings everything together, process the data, and make the whole thing work. To that end they do have right to safeguard their code and software design to keep anyone from knowing exactly what they are doing, and how they are doing.

    So I think it is not wrong if someone figured it all out by themselves how to use those components or use Kinet in its entirety in other purpose besides connecting to XBox. But I would venture to guess that whoever attempts to extract the code internal to the device would be subject to legal action, and like it or not, Microsoft's litigation would be legitimate.

  • Re:Tampering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by countSudoku() ( 1047544 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:10PM (#34139356) Homepage

    And what a bad choice of language, not surprisingly from a MS spokesweasel. "Tamper-resistant" comes from the time when people were adding poison and other bad ingredients to Tylenol and other products which lacked the little foil "tamper-proof" seal on the package. Tamper-resistant should be protecting ME from something BAD, and NOT for assholes to lock down my new device to their RROD shitbox. Using this fucking hardware any goddamn way we see fit, even if it makes no sense, is what I demand. Crack open that fucking thing and fuck Microsoft in their stupid asses with a Sony Move stick!

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:17PM (#34139462) Homepage

    Hardware-wise, Kinect isn't anything particularly special - basically few mics, simple visible light webcam, two stereoscopically arranged IR ones (take out IR filter from an ordinary webcam, replace it with non-exposed part of photographic film) capturing projected light pattern, very limited tilting.

    Everything very interesting and useful happens on the CPU of X360...

    It's not merely a case of drivers, you'd need highly specific software anyway. Might as well use 2 inexpensive webcams.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:19PM (#34139478) Journal
    Regardless of the business model, there is no place for this aggressive rhetoric. Microsoft needs to understand that when they sell someone a piece of hardware, it is no longer Microsoft's to control outside of allowing it on their network or not.
  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:21PM (#34139488) Journal
    Did you miss the "to the extent that such acts are permitted under copyright law" clause in that citation?
  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:21PM (#34139498) Homepage

    They'll want it when it's ready, nicely integrated and a must-have feature of Win8.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:25PM (#34139584) Homepage

    Microsoft is losing money on these Kinect units

    ^this one is really one of those [citation needed] cases

  • Re:bounty (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:37PM (#34139774)

    Extraordinarily cheap. Considering this will likely take several weeks of work, if not quite a bit more. I would guess around 200+ hours of time so you're basically getting paid $10/hr for extremely specialized knowledge... and that's if you're first so there's no guarantee you'll get paid at all.

    Not worth my time to even look at.

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:37PM (#34139780) Journal

    How can it possibly hurt Microsoft if there are customers who want to purchase and repurpose their hardware for something other than playing a game?

    Which do you think is more in Microsoft’s best interests, selling a bunch of high-tech electronics in a molded plastic case for $150, or selling a piece of stamped plastic for $40?

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:37PM (#34139782)

    While it might smack of 1984 paranoia, we ARE talking about a motion tracking camera, attached to a closed architecture and DMCA protected computing platform, equipped with broadband internet capabilities, communicating in a DMCA protected communication protocol.

    No matter how "OMFG! AWESOME!" this thing is, unless I know for sure what software is being run, I consider it an unsafe product for my privacy.

    Just imagine the "Fun", should Microsoft decide to roll out an update that causes the camera to 'passively' track and analyze images of logos it sees, so they can datamine their gaming public for "enhanced products and services", such as "Value added partnerships with partner companies" to offer "Special product offers" to said people? Suddenly, your XBOX becomes the equivilent of a secret shopper in your home, suggesting more Hostess, Dolly Madison, and Pepsi products.

    Doesnt matter if the resolution is really crappy, grainy, and the framerate is slow-- it only needs to focus on what the person is wearing/doing in front of the TV. Even surreptitiously snapping and sending jpegs of "logo candidates" to microsoft for bulk processing once a week would be of IMMENSE value to advertising fuckwads. (of course, microsoft would make 'every effort' to prevent personally identifiable information, like your face, and to avoid capturing images of naked users of the Kinect motion controller for privacy reasons, and then trumpet these as being 'good faith'-- but they would still happily capture the logos on your shirt and pants, on the can of pop/beer you are sipping, and what bag of deep fried somethings you are snacking on for their "advertising partners")

    But why stop there? This thing has several acoustic microphones too! Just IMAGINE the fun, should this device get co-opted by law enforcement! Why, they wouldnt NEED to "Mandate" cameras be installed in your house-- Why, they stupid sheeple would BUY IT, and INSTALL IT themselves! Just imagine the fun that the security theater types in Great Britain would have with this! The "Full monitor" mode could be activated based on "excessive motion", and or "Highly variable sound input matching XX baseline", and suddenly you are on candid camera while you spank your naughty child's butt. Better have a good explanation when child protective services shows up. (etc.)

    So, simply because I have had my "healthy" distrust of corporations and their use of technology turn into a pathological paranoia, I GREATLY desire to see the ENTIRE kinect data stack and software algorithm tree reverse engineered like a Diebold voting machine. The problem is that I have a hard time convincing myself that this one is paranoia.

    I want to know EVERYTHING this device does, how it does it, when, and why-- before I would even consider buying one.

  • by Captain Spam ( 66120 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @02:44PM (#34139874) Homepage

    Okay, I honestly forgot. Did Nintendo flip out when people started developing PC drivers for the Wii remote? I don't seem to recall them raising hell over someone making drivers for their controllers (and Nintendo WOULD be the ones to do so), but Microsoft is doing that for what is effectively a couple cameras?

  • by coniferous ( 1058330 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @03:25PM (#34140482) Homepage
    >MS said they dropped doing the heavy processing on Kinect itself...

    There is still that arm processor. It's being used for something. It could be used for something different.

    > so I just checked - it's 512 megabits

    Thats still too much for buffer. 512 megabits is 64 megabytes. Still more likely that it's for processing

    We are arguing about symantics. my point is: This is more then just a couple webcams and a couple of mics. We could debate about the symantics till the cows come home, but at the end of the day there are no hardware solutions that quite reproduce what the kinect does. It's worth hacking.
  • by greenbird ( 859670 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @04:28PM (#34141346)

    Microsoft needs to understand that when they sell someone a piece of hardware, it is no longer Microsoft's to control outside of allowing it on their network or not.

    That's just not [] true anymore. [] They've managed to pervert copyright law from the constitutional purpose of "to promote progress" to one of absolute control of anything, including ideas, anyone makes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:10PM (#34141858)

    Interesting but then if I were enforcement, I'd just use the millions of cellphones out there already like Batman. Really, how difficult could it be to remotely turn on a cellphone's microphone or camera?

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:18PM (#34141934)

    Microsoft just wants me to pay for it...
    Apple? They want to sell things too, but they are also control freaks that would want to make sure you are using it the way they want you to.

    I don't see how you come to that conclusion, at all.

    Apple is the one that doesn't really take many countermeasures against jailbreaking. They've not made a fuss about AppleTV or iPhone jailbreaking.

    Now here in this same story you find a dour letter from Microsoft about misusing the Kinect. And in Windows Phone 7, you have exactly the same degree of lockdown you do with the iPhone.

    I could see an argument for saying both companies are just as locked down, but to say Microsoft is substantially better just ignores what they are doing, in any space they compete in.

  • Only in the US (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:28PM (#34142044)

    I once had an interesting conversation with one of the executives of Lappset [] ("Lappset Group Oy is one of the leading manufacturers of playground equipment worldwide. Our products bring joy to millions of children and adults in more than 40 countries."). If you look at the list of countries that they operate in you'll find out it contains nearly all European countries, Australia, Israel and several countries in Asia... But not USA. He explained to me that this is because Lappset prefers the situation where their marketing and engineering departments are larger than their legal department. They (as a large, multinational playground equipment manufacturer) fear that if they would go for the north american markets, the amount of lawsuits would skyrocket and it just isn't worth it for them.

    Another example is cosmetics. I recently happened to read some labels from my girlfriend's make up (I think they were eyeliners or such). The label had some general content and then something along the lines of "USA: Do not eat. If you consume this product, seek medical..." or something. Apparently the manufacturer felt that they had to warn against eating the cosmetics or they would be sued in USA but there wasn't risk of that in Europe... The warning was clearly labeled to be USA-specific.

    It always amuses me that in theory the American ideology is "Personal freedom! Personal responsibility! No nanny states!" but in practice, people try to blame everything on other people (and actually succesfully win lawsuits in such cases). In the rest of the world we think "It is not nice if a child falls down from the swings or such... But that can always happen, whether the child was especially reckless or just had some bad luck..." but I don't think that the thought of suing the swing manufacturer, the land owner, the city, etc. would ever even occur to people (unless, of course, the equipment would really have been very badly flawed).

    Now, obviously I realize that those stereotypes don't apply to all 3E8 americans. But they certainly seem to apply to quite a large portition of the people. I guess your system encourages to that: In most of the world, if you sue a large company, they are ordered to pay you a small compensation and a multimillion dollar fine to the government. In USA, they would be ordered to pay the multimillion dollar compensation to the person who sued them. Of course that encourages people to get greedy...

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:52PM (#34142306)

    They've got millions of hotmail users, a large ad network centered on Bing that also spans many high volume sites like Facebook, Wall Street Journal, etc.

    Google search backs 65% of US search. (Microsoft is pushing 11%.)

    Google controls 69%+ of the online advertising market.

    Microsoft doesn't have a copy of all your Microsoft Office documents. Google has a copy of all your googledocs documents.

    Google analytics infests more internet sites than i can count. Microsoft only gets analytics data for their own properties.

    if you use their services, MS is still collecting your data.

    Google gets *tons* of data on you even if you don't use there services thanks to adwords/advertising and google analytics.

    Microsoft's "large ad network" is just a little slice of the advertising market.

    Sure microsoft collects user data, but they aren't even in the same league.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:46PM (#34143236)

    Its simple. This device costs a LOT less than a similar set of cameras+processing hardware from someone like PrimeSense (OEM for the kit in the Kinect). If you could use it for something other than playing games, there is suddenly a LOT less reason to buy the expensive kit.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger