Image credit: Adafruit (it was too good not to use)
Let the reverse-engineering begin! Adafruit Industries is offering a thousand smackers for whoever can come up with an open-source driver for the Kinect hardware. They think that a non-Microsoft interface will help create interesting applications for the device, and I agree. We’ll have our impressions of the final hardware and launch games tomorrow, but we already know that whatever the future of the platform, it’s unlike anything else.
It’s not going to be easy, though. The Kinect hardware uses a proprietary 320×240 camera that senses the distance of every pixel, but I get the feeling it’s not that simple. Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this thing, and I don’t think they’d leave their industry secrets blowing in the wind. It’ll be a hunt.
On the other hand, everyone who has ever underestimated the capability and resolve of the decentralized hacker network has been proved wrong. It might take a little time, but I believe an open source driver will be created, and I’m just going to throw out a guess, around a month and a half from now.
It’s a little disappointing that Microsoft isn’t shipping the Kinect with interesting Windows 7 integration — but I think we can safely assume that’s in the pipes. With the amount of money they’ve invested into this thing, leveraging the Windows market isn’t just a good idea, it’s the only choice.
Update: After Microsoft commented to the effect that they would be working to prevent projects like this from succeeding, Adafruit raised the bounty to $2000. That’s the spirit!