Kinect hacks 'will inevitably influence studios'

Kinect hacks 'will inevitably influence studios'

By Rob Crossley

February 22nd 2011 at 9:31AM

Manipulations of Microsoft's popular peripheral may already be inspiring professional devs

Hundreds of widely eulogised Kinect hacks will “inevitably” have an influence on mainstream game development, a leading studio head has said.

Blitz Game Studios design director John Nash told Develop that the so-called ‘Kinect hacks’ – manipulations of Microsoft’s sophisticated motion controller usually undertaken by hobbyists and academics – has wowed the development community.

“I think the Kinect hack community has leapt on this for the same reason we’ve been singing the device’s virtues for the last 18 months,” he said in a new Develop feature on Kinect manipulation, published today.

“It’s the flexibility, the innovation, the potential for doing genuinely new and creative things with it. The fact that the device itself is software driven has obviously helped that process but some of the hacks we’ve seen have amazed us all,” he added.

Microsoft has officially declined to comment on Kinect hacks, in contrast to the wishes of some senior figures at the company, who are keen to discuss the homebrew phenomenon.

The platform holder has however today confirmed its Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit will be released this spring, free of charge for non-commercial uses. That in itself appears to be an indication that Microsoft wants to encourage innovation and lateral thinking for its new controller.

A commercial version of the Kinect Windows SDK will arrive at a later date, Microsoft said.

Kinect hacks have been demonstrated in their hundreds across the internet. Home-made manipulations of the hardware include a sign-language reader, a virtual invisibility suit and, perhaps as a more practical example for developers to ape, an FPS control system.

But the manipulation of Kinect hacks stretches beyond that of hobbyists and bedroom coders. Patrick Bouffard, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley's Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department, has adapted Kinect to provide the eyes for a quadrotor helicopter, which has captured the attention of the world’s media.

Develop has hand-picked five standout Kinect hacks in a new feature, published today.

Nash insisted that a studio like Blitz would ignore such inventions from gamers and enthusiasts “at our peril”.

“It’s easier than it’s been for decades for those at the grass roots level to get their hands dirty and create fun content for their favourite hardware, and we’ve always tried to listen to and engage with that indie community,” he added.

“It’s much easier for them to break down gameplay conventions, and although we have other considerations or restrictions to contend with when we develop big-budget commercial games, I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see the mainstream influenced by some of this work.”

Josh Blake, the founder of the OpenKinect ‘open source community’, reckons the Kinect hack scene has already influenced professional game developers.

“Figuring out how to make these interactions work is a very hard problem. If you look at the first wave of Kinect games, there are couple aspects of the menus and interactions that don't work well and a couple that work really well,” he said.

“I'm sure that mainstream game designers who are working on the next wave of Kinect games have been watching the community closely and have already incorporated some new ideas into their games.”