Over a million people bought one of Microsoft’s Kinect game controllers in the 10 days after its US launch on 4 November. Most eager customers rushed home, plugged it into their Xbox console and began experiencing a whole new type of gaming – one in which keyboards, mice and multi-button control pads are no longer needed.
But a few of the purchasers had no plans to use it for its intended purpose. For months they had been drooling over the technology in the device, which includes a sophisticated depth-sensing camera and infrared scanner.
For these elite hackers, the Kinect’s release was a rare opportunity to take a piece of big-name consumer tech and see what it could really do. If the device could be made to work with any computer, radical new applications were sure to follow.
“The day it was announced we were like, ‘We’re going to reverse engineer this’,” says Kyle Machulis, a hacker based in Berkeley, California. “We just love doing this.”
What happened next took the hackers by surprise. Adafruit Industries, a New York-based producer of DIY electronics kits, announced on the day of the launch that it would give $1000 to the first person to get a Kinect running on Windows, or another operating system.
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