The Newbie Guide to Microsoft Kinect Hacks


The Kinect is a motion sensing 3D camera developed by Microsoft for its Xbox 360 gaming console. Kinect lets a user interact with the console without even touching the joystick. The $150 Kinect is Microsoft’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii Remote Plus and Sony’s PlayStation Move. A number of Xbox 360 titles are already compatible with the Kinect and this number is set to increase significantly in the near future.

Microsoft’s Kinect has also caught the attention of the hacker community. The Kinect comes with 2 cameras that can be used to make a 3D map of anything that the cameras are focused on. Hackers have managed to transfer these 3D maps to computers and manipulate the data for some very interesting results. Many hackers have also employed Kinect’s infra-red mode to turn it into a night-vision camera. Some of the interesting Kinect hacks are explained below.

  1. Kinect 3D Viewer: The Kinect 3D Viewer is a very basic Kinect hack that is available online in the Apple App store. The app helps users create a 3D reading of any object by plotting RGB color values on the object’s 3D depth data provided by the Kinect’s cameras.
  2. Processing Demos: A multitude of Kinect hacks are designed using Processing, a programming language mainly used in visual projects. Processing based Kinect hacks are often more complex and sophisticated as compared to the rest and can take a lot of time to design. A number of Kinetic hack demos that run on Processing are available online which can be used even by non-programmers.
  3. FAAST: FAAST stands for The Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit. It is a freely available Kinect hack designed by the USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies. FAAST tracks a person’s arms and legs using Microsoft’s Kinect. It then allows users to assign keyboard combinations for every physical pose which will eventually help translate body movements into game commands. The FAAST Project webpage lists a number of additional applications and also offers an excellent user guide for FAAST.

Initially, Microsoft had opposed the creation and use of Kinect hacks. But as these hacks gained tremendous popularity among hackers and lay-users alike, Microsoft’s opposition evaporated. In fact, Microsoft has decided to release official drivers which will connect the Kinect to a Windows 7 PC. Microsoft’s approval of Kinect hacks will lead to a number of third party Kinect based applications in the days to come.

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