Microsoft recently released it's Kinect game controller for their Xbox console with a warning;
The firm said it did not condone modification of the Kinect and would "work closely with law enforcement… to keep Kinect tamper-resistant"
But within a few hours undeterred hackers had managed to get it to work with a common PC which has opened up a whole world of possibilities, unlocking what promises to be a revolution in robotics research. At one robotics company in California, researchers have shown that multiple Kinects can be combined without generating interference and are currently integrating the device into the company's robot. the robot is already endowed with expensive navigation equipment, including two stereo cameras and a laser scanner. But at $150 per unit the Kinect is so much cheaper, and produces such high-quality data, that it could replace some of these sensors.
At MIT they have already run an experiment in which the Kinect provided vision for a robot and could one day help produce cheap robots that could scour disaster areas for victims.
A computer scientist at the University of California, is working on 'Skype on Steroids', 3D video calls, with the Kinect part of a three-dimensional video conferencing system. Cameras will capture people in remote locations and place them together in a virtual environment.
In fact there are many applications for this technology that Microsoft wished to restrict to it's game console, obvious fun applications like a gesture-control system for other gadgets and their controllers - good for gaming but think how it could help the less able.
The story of how the Kinect was hacked and extra uses already in development can be found in New Scientist.
Just came across another related article in NS about the Nintendo Wii remote being used as a sensor for climate and water studies and the Kinect is next on their list.