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Hacked Kinect running on PC?

Open source drivers in development.

Gizmodo reported over the weekend that Kinect for Xbox 360 has been hacked, or rather reverse-engineered, with the motion-sensing hardware operating on an ordinary PC.

Two videos, uploaded to YouTube by NUIGroup admin AlexP, show the compromised motion sensor in action, demonstrating the progress made in the few days since Kinect arrived at US retail. While some may might consider this is an elaborate fake, AlexP is something of a renowned reverse-engineer, having produced open source drivers for PlayStation Eye, so the chances are this is very much the real deal.

Alex's first video demonstrates how the Kinect motor is controlled via PC while a second reveals the RGB and depth camera feeds running on PC. The latter video is especially intriguing as, according to Alex, the depth feed can be captured at 640x480 - just like the PrimeSense reference camera from which Kinect is adapted - while the official Kinect spec lists depth resolution at a quarter of that - 320x240.

The popular conception is that Kinect has been cut down in several ways from the original PrimeSense tech, and enhanced in others (the multi-array mic, for example). However, iFixit's brilliant teardown of the sensor reveals that the "brain" of Kinect - the PrimeSense processor - has indeed made its way through into the final shipping product.

The PrimeSense website shows a PS1080-A1 processor at the centre of the design, whereas iFixit's article shows that a PS1080-A2 chip is contained within Kinect's innards. This is curious bearing in mind comments from Alex Kipman, director of incubation at Xbox, who recently confirmed reports that the processor was removed. Perhaps the A2 version of the PrimeSense chip is a cut-down version of the original, or maybe there is more to the Kinect's guts than we're aware of? The chances are that the truth will out sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, amateur robotics enthusiasts around the world will be watching AlexP's progress very closely. Kinect's ability to see in 3D and "hear" so precisely while consuming a relatively miniscule 18 watts of power makes it the perfect device to add to a homemade robot, and it's likely that many other innovative homebrew applications for the sensor could be conjured up once fully refined PC drivers are available.

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About the Author

Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.

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