Kinect is hacker-friendly, and that's a good thing, Microsoft says

Kinect, the new motion-sensing peripheral for the Xbox 360, is apparently pretty vulnerable to hacks. But Microsoft isn't complaining.

Kinect Sports was among the first games released for the Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral.

Kinect, the new motion-sensing peripheral, is easy prey for hackers. According to reports in several outlets, including the UK Telegraph, a range of "amateurs and professionals" have repurposed the device to run all sorts of cool programs, including "a Star Wars-style light sabre simulator" and "a shadow puppet that takes the movements of a user's arm and projects them as a bird." (More here.)

Sounds ominous, right? Well, not so fast. Responding to queries about the hacks, Microsoft has said that it intentionally made the Kinect open-source – and that it welcomes the additions to the Kinect universe.

"What has happened is someone wrote an open-source driver for PCs that essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn't protect by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor," Microsoft's Alex Kipman recently told NPR, according to Ars Technica. "The sensor ... has eyes and ears, and that's a whole bunch of, you know, noise that someone needs to take and turn into signal."

The Kinect, which sells for $150, has won solid marks from reviewers, who have praised the intuitiveness of the peripheral. The Kinect is a blast to play, Luke Westaway of CNET UK wrote recently, "so long as you don't mind sacrificing all of the dignity you've spent your whole life accruing. We've spent several days playing our way through the launch titles and concluded that it's impossible to maintain any sense of self-respect while playing."

Playing the Kinect is embarrassing, Westaway continued, "but that's a big part of the fun. Similarly, watching your friends flailing around like loonies is a treat not to be missed." Plenty of consumers seem to agree. As of last week, Microsoft had reportedly sold more than a million Kinect units worldwide – a strong showing for a fledging device.

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