Kinect developer claims credit for hack bounty idea

Just after Microsoft announced a Windows software development kit for its hit Kinect motion controller today, a former "core" member of the device's development team said the idea for a bounty contest to hack the Kinect was his.

In a post on his personal blog, former Kinect team "core contributor" Johnny Lee said that he was happy to see news of the new SDK from Microsoft and that it was something he'd been promoting internally before he left in January to join Google as a "rapid evaluator." In the post, Lee also … Read more

IBM researchers show love for 'Jeopardy' champion Watson

SAN JOSE, Calif.--I'm going to just come out and admit it--I was rooting for the humans.

By "humans," of course, I mean Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two men who on the one hand are the greatest champions in the history of "Jeopardy" and who on the other just ended up getting their butts handed to them at the game by a computer that didn't even seem to know that Toronto isn't in the United States.

In case you were somehow in a cabin in the mountains with no Internet access and … Read more

Hacking Kinect: Setting sci-fi in motion

In the two-plus months since the creation of open-source drivers for Microsoft's Kinect made it possible to hack the popular motion controller, the device has been used as a sophisticated piano, to add voice control to popular video games, to create 3D renderings of a car's path, and even for a demo of soft-core porn.

Indeed, the open-source tools have snatched control of the device from Microsoft's proprietary hands, and each new day sees the emergence of some new kind of Kinect hack. But as the community of techies investing time in these types of imaginative--and unauthorized--works … Read more

'Fail Whale' creator aims to democratize art

SAN FRANCISCO--Since the famous "Fail Whale" is known for signifying that Twitter is down, it might surprise you to know that there are a lot of people out there who appreciate seeing it.

"People are actually looking forward to [Twitter] downtime," said Yiying Lu, the artist who created what came to be known as the Fail Whale. "I'm [always getting] tweets from people telling me it makes them happy" to see the whimsical image of a whale being hauled out of the water by a group of small birds.

Lu may be best … Read more

No Kinect sex yet, but the potential is there

You knew it was coming. It was inevitable. And, yes, I'm talking about Kinect sex.

With almost any hot new tech toy, especially one with a heavy degree of interactivity--which Microsoft's motion-sensitive controller has in spades--someone is going to try to hack it and try to make it X-rated. The Kinect is no exception.

To date, there are no overtly sexual Kinect games on the market, though the folks who put together Kinect MotionSwinger (pretty NSFW) would like you to believe--for a moment at least--otherwise. But that's nothing more than a joke concept for a Kinect sex … Read more

Scott Beale on 15 years of Laughing Squid (Q&A)

After 15 years of hard work documenting (and hosting) the development of tech culture, there is one person whom many see at the epicenter of tech culture: Scott Beale.

The founder of Laughing Squid, a company that offers Web hosting to the tech stars (and anyone else), a well-read tech culture blog, a Twitter feed with 100,000 followers, an influential events list, and more, Beale calls himself the "primary tentacle" of his operation.

In a 2007 article on SFGate, he was called "the official photographer of Web 2.0," a title that anyone who's … Read more

Building a green empire, one Tiny House at a time

GRATON, Calif.--As most people know, a major reason for the current housing meltdown was millions of people buying homes far bigger than they needed, let alone could afford. To Jay Shafer, the answer is tiny.

Shafer is the creator of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, a company based in this, yes, tiny town about an hour north of San Francisco, that designs and sells very, very small homes.

How small? Tiny Houses' most petite model, the XS-House, is just 65 square feet. Yet, while you might expect to find little more than a rabbit warren inside, what you actually experience when … Read more

Bounty offered for open-source Kinect driver

Update at 4:03 p.m. PT: This story has been modified with response from Microsoft.

The first person who figures out how to build an open-source driver for Microsoft's much-hyped new Kinect motion controller could win a $2,000 bounty offered by a leading open-source hardware developer.

Kinect, which launched today, is currently available solely for Microsoft's Xbox 360 and may well someday be extended to the Windows platform. But for New York-based Adafruit Industries, that's not enough.

And that's why Adafruit--led by MIT Media Lab alum Limor Fried and Make magazine Senior Editor Phillip … Read more

Snooki, Lady Gaga top Halloween costume queries

No surprise here: Eccentric pop star Lady Gaga and "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi are the top Halloween costume searches this year, according to Experian Hitwise. Also big this year are Katy Perry, Michael Jackson, and tween sensation Justin Bieber--though in Bieber's case, people are specifically searching for wigs.

Other Halloween costumes that have been popular searches this year are "queen of hearts," "mad hatter" (those two perhaps in reference to Tim Burton's summer hit flick "Alice in Wonderland"), "catwoman," "gypsy," and "… Read more

Harvest time in Napa Valley: Low tech, high art

NAPA VALLEY, Calif.--It's 6:45 in the morning, and the crew that's just about to begin working is only picking up from where the overnight team left off.

We're here, deep in some of the most valuable terroir, or vineyard land, on the planet, and for about two days only, it's a race against the clock--actually, the thermometer--to get more than 30 tons of premium grapes off the vines in top condition.

Where I'm standing is in the middle of the Horton block, a 15-acre piece of prime winemaking real estate owned by the … Read more