No one is going to get in trouble for doing something new and interesting with Kinect, according to Microsoft's Alex Kipman.
Microsoft isn't mad about all the people using Kinect to make robots and lightsabers. In fact, the company deliberately made it simpler for people to get access to the data that Kinect's cameras and microphones collects in order to make exactly that kind of project easier.
Kipman, Microsoft's head of incubation, said that Kinect was designed for Kinect with an unprotected USB connection. This meant that while anyone wanting to use the peripheral could get access to the data, although they would have to figure out a way to translate that data into something useful on their own. Microsoft wasn't going to take any action against people hooking Kinect up to PC, he said, and added that Microsoft was keen to partner with academic institutes to make sure that researchers had the opportunity to work on projects using the Kinect technology.
At first glance, this supposedly deliberate openness seems to be at odds with the comments the Microsoft made when Kinect was first released, and the idea of open source drivers first came up when Adafruits Industries offered a prize for the first person to get Kinect working with a PC. Microsoft made it very clear that it didn't condone people tampering with its products, and made vaguely threatening comments about how it worked with law enforcement.
Considering Kipman's remark that no one was going to get in trouble for their Kinect projects, it's possible that those comments were due to a miscommunication, as the Adafruits used the phrase reverse engineer. Microsoft may have misinterpreted as "take apart and then make our own version," and so responded more aggressively that it might otherwise have done.
Of course, it's also possible that Microsoft decided that pursuing hobbyists and universities wasn't a good use of resources, and instead trying to score some positive PR off the back of the projects. Either way, it's good news for everyone, as it basically gives a green light to more experimentation.