Ah, Microsoft’s Kinect. Now that the technology has been released into the wild, one thing becomes clear: hackers and programmers love it. It’s already been hacked to work on Linux and the Mac, and the first interesting hobby projects are starting to appear. Since Microsoft has already stated it’s selling Kinect at a profit, I’m going to make a bold statement: Microsoft is loving the hackery. Update: Turns out I was right – Microsoft has stated that Kinect was left open by design.
There are several things that lead me to conclude that Microsoft is actually quite pleased with the hacker and hobby community picking up Kinect in this manner to start hacking and playing with it. On their own they may not mean much, but put them all together like pieces in a puzzle, and it becomes hard to argue against it.
First, and foremost, Microsoft is not selling Kinect at a loss. “The first Kinect prototype cost Microsoft $30000 to build, but 1000 workers would eventually be involved in the project,” The New York Times wrote last month, “And now, hundreds of millions of dollars later, the company has a product it can sell for $150 a pop and still turn a profit, [Don Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment] says.”
This means that Microsoft doesn’t have to rely on game sales to subsidise the investment in the Kinect hardware. Sure, it would be nice if Kinect owners bought lots of games, but in the end, it doesn’t cost Microsoft a thing if those few hackers out there buy Kinect just for owning the hardware.
The second indication that Microsoft is loving the hackery is that Redmond’s aspirations with Kinect don’t end at the Xbox 360 alone. The company intends to put Kinect’s camera and voice recognition technology into everything – with computers and displays (including televisions) as the most obvious targets. I can see a future where Microsoft will simply license the technology – in true Redmond fashion – to manufacturers all over the world, so that Kinect technology becomes ubiquitous.
With this in mind, it makes sense to let hackers and hobbyists have a swing at playing with Kinect now, so that bright minds can show the world what Kinect is capable of. Basically – free marketing, but not for gamers. No, free marketing for device makers Microsoft wants to convince to integrate Kinect.
The third and last indication that Microsoft is okay with the hackery is a rather obvious and straightforward one: dear lord, Kinect is easy to hack. It was hacked and a free Linux driver made available within a few hours. Does that look like a thoroughly locked down device to you?
Put all this together, and it seems like Microsoft is taking a Windows Mobile approach to Kinect, i.e., sure, it condemned hacking of Windows Mobile, but it made it quite easy to do so, and never stopped any form of distribution of hacked ROMs. This is very good news for us fans of hackery, so let’s hope I’m not wrong. I’m incredibly curious to see what imaginative people can come up with using Kinect’s technology.