November 22, 2010 | By Eva Galperin

Microsoft Embraces First Wave of Kinect Innovation

Good news: after some initial sword rattling, Microsoft has embraced hardware hackers for modifying the Kinect. When asked about Microsoft's stance on hardware hackers putting the Kinect to creative new uses, Shannon Loftis, Studio Manager at Microsoft Game Studios said, "As an experienced creator, I'm very excited to see that people are so inspired that it was less than a week after the Kinect came out before they had started creating and thinking about what they could do." This news comes as a relief to hardware hackers and researchers who see the Kinect as an ideal, low-cost platform on which to build everything from robots that detect humans, respond to gestures and voice commands, and build 3-D maps of their surroundings, to programs that allow a users to draw and manipulate images by making gestures through the air.

Good job Microsoft. We're glad you took our advice.

Hackers should note that Microsoft's love of the hardware hacking community comes with some potentially important reservations. In a New York Times article about the Kinect hacking revolution, Craig Davidson, senior director for Xbox Live at Microsoft, explains that some innovation, according to Microsoft's standards, is still off-limits:

Mr. Davidson said Microsoft now had no concerns about the Kinect-hacking fan club, but he said the company would be monitoring developments, adding that a modification that compromises the Xbox system, violates the company’s terms of service or "degrades the experience for everyone is not something we want," he said.

It's unclear what that statement will mean in practice.

Ultimately, of course, EFF believes that if you bought it, you own it — and that means that you have the right to tinker with it. Companies should not foreclose on your freedom to tinker with restrictive Terms of Use. As demonstrations of new uses for the Kinect technology pop up online, EFF will continue to follow this issue to see how the relationship between Microsoft and Kinect hackers develops.

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