Microsoft promotes Kinect “hacking” with Windows SDK

Just a few weeks ago, we speculated how long it might be until Microsoft would embrace the increasing popularity of hacking the Kinect motion-sensing gaming device, and turn it into a mainstream activity.

With an announcement on The Official Microsoft Blog this week stating that a non-commercial Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit will be released in the next few months, it appears that mainstream Kinect “hacking” may arrive sooner than we had anticipated.

“The Kinect for Windows SDK is being developed and released by Microsoft Research (MSR) in collaboration with Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB),” the post states. “It will be available this spring as a free download, and will give academic researchers and enthusiasts access to key pieces of the Kinect system—such as the audio technology, system application programming interfaces and direct control of the Kinect sensor itself.”

Since November of last year, just days after the Kinect’s official launch, unofficial open source Linux drivers for the device were released to the Internet by well-known hacker Hector Martin. Martin received $3000 from Adafruit Industries as a reward for one of many challenges they had issued to promote open source Kinect development.

Since then, object recognition applications, multi-touch interfaces, “adult” games, and several other unofficial applications have been produced for use with the Kinect. Early on, Microsoft denounced those applications; however, the corporation’s attitude has completely changed in three months.

“Supporting this community and enabling creativity around natural user interfaces (NUI) is important to us, and our hope is that this SDK will ignite further creativity in an already vibrant ecosystem of enthusiasts,” the company now says.

“Natural and intuitive technologies such as Kinect can be more than just a great platform for gaming and entertainment.  They open up enormous opportunities across a wide variety of scenarios, including addressing societal issues in areas such as healthcare and education.”

It’s great to see Microsoft supporting this kind of creative development rather than using every legal means possible to stifle it. Maybe Sony will take notice and learn a thing or two, but probably not.