Hacker wins $3,000 bounty for open source Kinect driver

A $3,000 bounty to create an open source driver for the Kinect has been won by a hacker, despite Microsoft expressing its grumblings about the affair, and a further $2,000 was donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to help defend hackers’ rights.

The bounty, which was offered by open source electronics firm Adafruit Industries on the US release date of the Kinect, originally started at $1,000. But it quickly doubled and then tripled as Microsoft found out and responded angrily about modifying its products – even though a software driver is far from modding the hardware itself

The hacker who won the bounty was Hector Martin, who wrote to Adafruit saying: “Here’s my take on the Kinect driver. Supports depth and RGB images and displays them on an OpenGL window. It’s very hacky right now but it does prove the concept.”

Martin uploaded his open source driver with documentation to the web, which was one of the requirements for winning the bounty, and Adafruit verified that the hack does indeed work on a Linux machine.

Martin will spend the $3,000 on hacking tools and devices for him and his hacking colleagues, some of whom are members of the iPhone Dev Team, responsible for consistently jailbreaking new versions of the iOS before they’re officially released. Some colleagues are also members of Team Twiizers, who hack Nintendo’s Wii. To most of the group hacking is a hobby, so this prize is a boon for investing in further hacking developments.

Martin was not the only bounty hunter out there, however, as dozens of others were hard at work on making a driver that would allow the Kinect to work with a PC, Mac, or even a rival console.

The bounty also spawned the OpenKinect Google Group, where people shared their code and drivers and discussed advances made in the project.

“For $150 [the Kinect is] loaded with tons of great sensors and cameras – now it’s unlocked for creativity,” Adafruit said.

Under the possible threat of legal action from Microsoft, which said it would “work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant”, Adafruit has donated a further $2,000 to the EFF and called on others to donate to the organisation, which it believes may be the hacking community’s only hope if their ability to hack the Kinect comes under question.

The bounty winner does not own an Xbox.