In today’s edition of the University of Washington student newspaper “The Daily” there is an article describing how some Electrical Engineering grad students are adapting the Xbox 360’s Kinect system to assist in non-invasive, robotic surgeries as part of a larger research project. Kudos to them for their creativity, right? A look at some recent news in the gaming world might put a darker spin on their efforts.
This past December, a group of coders hacked into the Playstation 3 gaming console, essentially giving themselves the ability to run any operating system they like on the machine. A similar hacking code was then made public by another hacker, George Hotz, and Sony filed a DMCA lawsuit against him. (This is particularly interesting to note because the Playstation 3 was originally designed to allow for other operating systems to be run on it.) The Guardian gives an excellent summary of the events and their effect on the video gaming industry.
In light of the events surrounding the PS3, what problems might arise with the UW students’ use of the Kinect system for their own purposes? Is it considered fair use if it is for scientific and medical research? How would DMCA affect their vision of wide-spread implementation of the technology in remote regions?
These kinds of stories also raise questions about the nature of video game consoles. They have been behind some pretty awesome innovations: have they transcended their origins as information appliances and truly become generative platforms, or has Sony’s lawsuit had its own kind of ‘chilling effect’ on that sort of evolution?