With strong momentum building behind the gaming in education phenomenon, we are excited to see that ‘Kinect Sesame Street TV’ will be going on sale in the spring.

As a childhood fan of Sesame Street, it will be fun to see true interactivity come to this classic children's TV show.

Announced earlier this week at an event in New York, Sesame Street TV will invite viewers to jump into Sesame Street and play. Microsoft’s motion-sensing camera will let children interact through voice and gesture with Sesame Street characters who will respond based on the child’s actions. If Cookie Monster says “stand up and clap your hands with me,” he’ll recognize whether the child is playing along and interact accordingly. Or if Grover asks a child to throw a coconut, he’ll look to where the child “threw” it based on how hard they heave.

That interactive experience is something the people at Sesame Street have dreamed about for years, said Miles Ludwig, managing director of content innovation and Sesame Workshop.

“No one had ever delivered on the full promise of interactive TV – to bring an experience that delivers that same level of engagement and the same focus on character and narrative but also provides meaningful opportunities for kids to be a part of the story,” Ludwig said. “Now kids will be able to have adventures with their Sesame Street friends and be a part of the adventure in a way that’s never been possible before. We’re very excited about this partnership with Microsoft that will capitalize on new technologies to bring altogether new kinds of educational and of course entertaining experiences to families.”

Through “Kinect Sesame Street TV” children will be able to learn right alongside their favorite characters,  like this young girl who is counting coconuts with Grover.

Through “Kinect Sesame Street TV” children will be able to learn right alongside their favorite characters, like this young girl who is counting coconuts with Grover.

“Kinect Sesame Street TV” is one of many new interactive experiences Kinect will start delivering for kids in the coming months, said Dave McCarthy, general manager for Kids and Lifestyle Entertainment at Microsoft Studios.

In New York today Microsoft introduced its Kinect “playful learning” experiences, which aim to use the power of Kinect to make learning with games and TV fun and, for the first time, truly interactive. As the Sesame Street TV example shows, these experiences aim to break down the wall between TV and viewer – and hopefully the wall between entertainment and education, McCarthy said.

Making TV Interactive

Several Kinect “playful learning” experiences will revolve around television, which for better or worse is the medium kids spend the most time with, McCarthy said. Microsoft is collaborating with Sesame Street and National Geographic, two partners that have delivered quality children’s TV programing for decades. From counting with Grover to exploring the natural world with National Geographic, the collaboration introduces true interactivity to children’s TV programming for the first time, McCarthy said.

One of the “Kinect Nat Geo TV” experiences will feature Nat Geo WILD host Casey Anderson and his pal, Brutus.

One of the “Kinect Nat Geo TV” experiences will feature Nat Geo WILD host Casey Anderson and his pal, Brutus.

“Kids’ TV has always been a one-way street,” he said. “A character asks you to jump up and clap your hands, but it doesn’t really know if you’re doing it and can’t respond. With Kinect, we saw a way to make TV truly interactive – to make it a two-way conversation.”

For example, “Kinect Nat Geo TV” will bring NatGeo WILD to life starting this spring. In New York Microsoft previewed an episode of ”Kinect NatGeo TV” where Kinect will scan the viewer’s living room and transforms it into an animal habitat, complete with grass growing on the couch. Children will then be invited to forage for food as a bear, which they just learned about through the show. They’ll see an image of themselves onscreen with claws and a bear head and will roam around the living room – er, the rugged outdoors – trying to eat as many moths as they can.

The goal behind the “Kinect Nat Geo TV” experience is to transport kids and their families around the world to expand their knowledge of geography and the environment while inspiring a sense of wonder and excitement, said Brad Dancer, senior vice president of digital media and research at the National Geographic Channel.

“Because our programming is so information-rich we can only show so much, but ‘Kinect Nat Geo TV’ offers the ability to go further than what the television show can do,” he said. “It lets us go further into animal behavior and what it means, and give people the choice to learn more. It uses the best parts of interactivity and television content production to offer something new.”

Find out more about Kinect for Xbox 360

And as mentioned with “Kinect Sesame Street TV,” children will see their image appear alongside favorite characters such as Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover, and of course, Elmo.

I can't wait to give it a whirl. Exciting times ahead for gaming in education, for sure!

Tim