The strange history of Kinect hacks began as both a contest and a call to creative arms: unlock Kinect, said Adafruit Industries in early November, and win $3,000. Not a week later, and the deed was done. Microsoft even changed its original tune of litigious anger to accepting pride: Kinect was suddenly dubbed ‘open by design’ by its makers.
Since then, we’ve been privy to Kinect adult games and now Angry Birds Kinect. Amazing (and perverse) work so far, but with Microsoft – and 3rd party developers – emphasizing non-traditional games and these hacks being far from amazing new gaming experiences, will these newfangled applications ever prove plausible for the common gamer?
The Nintendo Wii was the previous focus of upstart hackers. Some may recall computer engineer Johnny Chung Lee’s forays into reverse engineering the technology to create head and finger-tracking demonstrations. When the videos appeared in 2007, the potential was obvious: gamers might soon find themselves controlling an in-game character’s head movements with their own head movements.
Those hacks were never implemented in Nintendo’s massively successful console. They have, however, become part of Kinect’s novelty. That is, a completely motion-controlled experience. Moving your head, arms and legs in real life causes an in-game avatar to do the same.
The problem with these Kinect hacks is not only the difficulty finding popularity within a mainstream audience likely leery of the term “hack,” but the overall effort required to craft compelling new software that takes full advantage of Kinect. A brand new input method is one thing. That input method being the human body is quite another. And while these hacks are intriguing, they’re only fluff…for now, anyway.
It’s possible, however, that small, upstart developers could begin throwing together small experiences – similar to the 360’s own Xbox Live Indie Games program. If Microsoft is so open to Kinect hacks, that isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Who knows? Maybe the next big thing for Kinect will be low-budget, independently developed games. Hey, it worked for Apple.
Until then, all we can do is marvel at all these unique tech demos and yearn for the day that new, innovative content is produced for Kinect . Oh, and Angry Birds Kinect. We need that.