Kinect hacked after MIT alumni offer prize money

Two thousand dollars awarded as successful crackers provide video evidence

Microsoft's Kinect has been hacked within a few days of its commercial release, after a company headed up by two MIT graduates offered $2000 prize money to anyone able to prove their success.

Adafruit Industries, which is chaired by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone, put up the money because its directors believe that the technology used in Kinect is too useful to not be adapted to further uses. Microsoft is understandably keen to prevent that from happening.

"Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products. With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering," Microsoft told CNET in a statement.

"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."

The prize money, which was doubled last week after Microsoft issued its statement, was awarded after the hackers provided a video which seems to prove that they have bypassed security measures and gained control of the unit's motors. Although the hack has yet to be officially confirmed, Adafruit representatives were satisfied.

"It's amazing hardware that shouldn't just be locked up for Xbox 360," said Phillip Torrone in an email to CNET. "Its 'radar camera' being able to get video and distance as a sensor input from commodity hardware is huge."

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Latest comments (19)

gi biz ;, 7 years ago
That's Microsoft's sad destiny :D
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 7 years ago
I dont really see the hacking of the sensor being a huge deal. What does Microsoft stand to lose from a hack of the sensor? Some homebrew Kinect games? Someone moving the sensor with his control pad to impress friends? Some OS functionality that MS is bound to implement sometime in the future.
The mass market doesnt care and will not be impacted by any sensor hacks in the near term anyway.
I really see a hack as a positive sign, positive in the sense that its free publicity :)
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University7 years ago
some people like to have full power of what people can do with what they made...
Microsoft has been like this for some time.
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Show all comments (19)
Marc Kent Pre-production Manager, Testronic7 years ago
Funny how one of the Kinect guys got the job thanks to his impressive Wii remote hacks ;)
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Marc Gissler7 years ago
From my understanding, the huge deal is that the capabilities of the hardware could be used for applications other than games and that buying the hardware through kinect is cheaper than assembling all the necessary parts on your own. In that sense, it could be compared to connecting hundreds of PS2s to get the processing power of a super computer for a much cheaper price.

Since microsoft does not offer 'radar camera' hardware other than in Kinect, they would not be harmed by this. On the contrary :)
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University7 years ago
Marc> that ps3 on the super computer thing

but your right, a lot of people could use this.
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Alan Pierce Programmer, Digital Delight7 years ago
Aleski, I think you missed the point. The competition was created because they want the Kinect sensor to have "further uses". i.e for use on a PC, similar to the Wiimote hacks.
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Marc Gissler7 years ago
@ Stephen: I was referring to a story from a few years ago: <a href=""> PlayStation turns supercomputer

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marc Gissler on 8th November 2010 3:26pm

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Marie Foulston Innovation Executive, Screen WM/ Game Central7 years ago
I know there's much bigger potential here... but for me its this throwaway point here --> 'some homebrew Kinect games' that makes this headline awesome for me.

And on the 7th day MIT gave unto the crazy indie devs the Kinect. If anything these are the people who I think will truly find the gaming potential within Kinect and to assume this wont have an effect on the development of future mass market releases... hmmm I'd beg to differ.
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James Knight QA Manager/Game Design 7 years ago
Wasn't Kinect going to hook up to PC anyway? I'm sure that was one of the plans.
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 7 years ago
Alan: i might have not gotten the point completely but I was more thinking along the lines of the mass market being able to utilize any hack that might become widely available. It will be used by the minority for the forseeable future. All current consoles are designed with a plug&play mentality and all hacks require some sort of user input, which is far beyond what "Susan 35year old single mom from Glasgow" could implement and still have smooth user experience. Yes this might have implications for some but no, not for the market that the product was designed for --> no real harm for microsoft.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University7 years ago
Marc> did not know people did it with the ps2, well they doing the same with ps3 now.

this thing can pick the bones right? maybe it can be a low costing way for small devs to do a kind of motion capture.
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Jaromir Mowald VG Journalist 7 years ago
As I am testing Kinect right now, I really see why it bothers Microsoft so much. They created it, they surely know its full potential and just want to be sure, that they will be the ones, who will provide the access to the tech to other parties. And they will do it, these things just take time. Kinect is out for only a few days. I can completely understand that. Some "greater good" is just irrelevant.
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Ollie Purkiss Senior Designer, Supermassive Games7 years ago
One thing to consider is that they are probably selling the hardware at a loss (as almost all games platforms are) in order to drive software sales. If that's the case then Microsoft really don't benefit from people buying Kinect to do anything other than play games on it.
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Craig Tongue AI Programmer 7 years ago
Regarding Ollie's point, that kind of implies a fault with their business plan which is hardly the fault of the People Who Bought Their Hardware.

If you are selling something at a loss then you are not really at liberty to complain when you make a loss selling it...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Craig Tongue on 8th November 2010 5:29pm

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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology7 years ago
it would funny if these guys got a job offered at MS from doing this....

but yes,i do agree that kinect does have alot more potentional then just games and xbox-centric things...

but will MS realise this?.....maybe....time will tell..
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Lewis Cook Studying Computer Game Application Development, University of Abertay Dundee7 years ago
@ craig

It is a known fact that microsoft and sony intitailly release their harware as loss leaders. They spend so much on R+D, and new tech, that yes of course even if they sell for 400 they will make a loss per unit. As time goes on, production goes up, and the cost to make parts is cheaper as it can be refined and mistakes ironed out. Plus, the install base grows, so software sales go up, and eventually, even with hardware price cuts, the hardware can be sold if not for much profit, at least for no loss.

Nintendo typically choose to use existing hardware in quirky ways, meaning they usually can see a return per unit from day one (which as you said about business models - may be a safer bet). There is no right model, look how successful PS2 was, that i am sure sold at a loss for a year or two before production costs came down.
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Private Industry 7 years ago
Not surprised it got hacked. From a technical point of view that was to be expected that it does not take long to hack it since all the processing is done by the 360 so there can`t be much that needs to be hacked. I can imagine a good programmer can write rather "quick" a driver for it so it can be used to some degree with other devices besides of the 360 or write a little SDK. Windows should be possible until early next year with full functionality. 360 is hacked so they should be able to get the data from the console in order to make Kinect run on Windows. Of course that`s just a theory of someone with minor understand of how that thing really works.

I don`t think it would hurt MS at all, the only thing that can happen is that Kinect would be made a more useful device that is not limited to the 360. If Kinect could be used with all the functionality and the possibility of indie developers it would be more likely for me to pick actually one up instead of having it limited to the 360 as it is at the moment.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 9th November 2010 12:36am

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Ari Aumala mobile development, usability/quality 7 years ago
Will this pave our way towards "Minority Report" kind of UIs in the mainstream?
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