Xbox 360 Kinect open source drivers released

The Adafruit Industries Kinect open source drivers contest appears to be paying off. On November 8th, a Windows developer going by the forum name AlexP demonstrated the ability to tap into the Kinect motor controls, color sensing and 3D depth sensing, all from a Windows 7 PC.

Today, a developer named Hector Martin released an early set of Linux open source drivers for Kinect, which offer a glimpse into what can be expected in the future.

Xbox 360 Kinect open source drivers released

The Linux drivers don’t do very much besides RGB input and depth sensing at this point, but they most certainly will be improved in the future. A mature driver set will eventually allow developers to create advanced software that can harness the power of the Kinect hardware.

There’s no Xbox 360 required, just a PC running a Linux OS and a Kinect. The drivers are publicly available now and can be found on the coder’s Git Page. If Hector Martin can release drivers that work on other Operating Systems as well, he might be eligible to claim the Adafruit Industries contest bounty (now up to $3,000) , which originally started at $1,000.

The NUI Group and AlexP demonstrated their own private Windows drivers a few days ago, but now they appear to be throwing their support behind Hector Martin.

“After a day we have decided to close the fund, We have learned that ChipIn is not a good solution for such efforts and saw progress by other contenders. We have have raised a total of $457, which we will now be donating all of it to Hector/his projects for his success.”

Microsoft reportedly built in anti-piracy features to try and keep the Kinect platform closed off from hackers, but these protections are most likely limited to the proprietary Xbox 360 Kinect software, not the hardware.

It’s really no surprise that developers have began releasing drivers for the Kinect hardware to be used on other platforms, especially with a possible monetary award available. Microsoft has responded to the new driver reports, downplaying the impact and letting everyone know that these drivers are not really a true “hack”.

“Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked–in any way–as the software and hardware that are part of Kinect for Xbox 360 have not been modified. What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to interface with the Kinect for Xbox 360. The creation of these drivers, and the use of Kinect for Xbox 360 with other devices, is unsupported. We strongly encourage customers to use Kinect for Xbox 360 with their Xbox 360 to get the best experience possible.”

Trying to unlock the hidden power of the Kinect platform is expected to remain a popular goal among coders looking to get under Microsoft’s skin. People interested in robotics are particularly interested in the Kinect being developed for other platforms, as it could offer them a low cost method to obtain advanced hardware sensors that were previously only available at much higher costs.

As the game industry adjusts to Kinect, there is still a lot of uncertainty related to the Microsoft technology. Kinect was officially introduced during E3 2010, but games such as Star Wars Kinect and other Kinect-specific game titles won’t be ready until late 2011.

Here at MyCE, we’ve even asked if the PlayStation Eye could already do what the Kinect does.