Kinect: The Future of 3D Imaging
Oliver Kreylos, a researcher in virtual reality at the University of California Davis, found a fountain of gold with Microsoft’s Kinect. Kreylos had managed to hack into the Kinect code and transform the device into a 3D reconstruction tool.
Kreylos, who had set up his own homepage, had spent years looking for the perfect 3D camera for his project about video communication enhancement. When he finally found a company manufacturing a cheap 3-D camera, U.S. tech giant Microsoft had just bought out the whole corporation.
The technology produced by the company was to become Microsoft’s Kinect, a webcam-style add-on peripheral for the Xbox 360 game console. Kreylos paid it no mind for he was not interested with Kinect’s motion control ability.
But Spanish hacker Hector Martin made Kreylos reconsider when he successfully hacked into Kinects data code to allow it to be hooked up to computers. “When I saw what Hector had done, I literally dropped everything I did and biked to my local game store and bought one right away,” he said. “I knew I was going to get the 3-D reconstruction I’ve wanted for such a long time.”
Mr. Kreylos used his own Vrui VR toolkit for 3D rendering management and interaction and 3D reconstruction code plus some of Martin’s reverse engineering work to connect the device into a PC.
Kreylos had uploaded a video of him using the kinect to reconstruct a 3D version of himself on YouTube. The video was an instant hit with more than 1.5 million times viewed.
But Kreylos is not the first and only one to attempt transforming devices into another tool. Tinkering certain hardwares, such as the Nintendo Wii surfboard, that has already establish its own purpose is rampant nowadays. So far the Kinect has also been used to facilitate robots to see, create mid-air 3D sketches and numerous other projects reminiscent of the technology used in sci-fi film “Minority Report.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft wasnt too happy with the reports at first. The company issued a statement to technology news site CNET saying it would “work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.” But the company changed its tone in their second statement issued to CNN. “Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked — in any way — as the software and hardware that are part of Kinect have not been modified.” It reads.
Furthermore, a Microsoft exec said she was “inspired” by the “tinkering” and said the company would not seek to prosecute anybody. Her statement and the company’s stand surprised everyone, including Kreylos himself.
“I’m a little bit surprised. I don’t really understand what they’re doing. It might be the cleverest marketing ploy since the invention of sliced bread. I was fully expecting Microsoft to have buttoned down this thing, and it would have been easy for them. This thing is a full-blown computer and they could have put military grade encryption on it to keep people like me from getting our grubby hands on it, but they didn’t.”
Meanwhile Kraylos and other hackers’ efforts to reverse-engineer store-bought hardware is recognized by other users as an effective means to provide a wider technological solutions for the future.
According to an anonymous expert computer hacker:
“The nice thing about off-the-shelf devices is that they are typically highly developed, well-refined and economical single-point solutions to everyday problems,” The spirit of taking off-the-shelf devices and hacking them goes far beyond just the world of electronics; it’s done all the time in situations ranging from Third World economies, such as Cuba’s, where they need to make do with what little they have.