Dec. 22 - A new series of the long-running educational children's TV show Sesame Street is being produced jointly with Microsoft for its Xbox Kinect motion-sensing gaming platform. Matt Cowan reports.
More than 40 years after it first hit TV screens, Sesame Street is taking a bold step. A new season of the much-loved educational TV program is being created specifically for Xbox Kinect. Microsoft's motion-sensing gaming tool became the fastest selling consumer electronics device in history after its launch in November 2010. Now, the people behind the technology and the TV show are looking to pioneer a new form of interactive programming they call playful learning. Dr. Rosemarie Truglio is in charge of research and education at Sesame Workshop and says she's excited about Kinect's potential to take interactive learning to a new level. SOUNDBITE: Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Sesame Workshop, Research and Education VP saying (English) "Children participate while watching television but they can't interact because their actions have no impact on show programming. It continues to go on. With Kinect Sesame Street TV it's a totally different experience because if you're not going to interact, the character is going to prompt you to interact so there are going to be two tracks where the child will truly be interacting and getting feedback. So if they're asked to identify the letter D and they pick the letter e they will be corrected." The groundbreaking project is being produced at Microsoft's Soho Productions in London where Jerry Johnson is the general manager. SOUNDBITE: Jerry Johnson, Soho Studios General Manager saying (English): "Television is already the number one thing a two to five-year-old does during the day when it comes to consuming media. And similarly to what Sesame Street did 40 years ago, we're trying to think about about how can we make that a more enriching experience." So while children will be familiar with characters such as Elmo, Cookie Monster and Grover from the TV show...this version uses the camera, voice recognition and depth sensing technology of Kinect to help kids learn lessons in a non-linear, interactive fashion. There's even a new digital character being created using motion capture technology. It may look a little far out for a kids' TV Show but Sesame Workshop content chief Terry Fitzpatrick says it all fits nicely with Sesame Street's traditional mission. SOUNDBITE: Terry Fitzpatrick, Sesame Workshop, Executive Vice-President of Content and Distribution saying (English) "Well I think the promise of interactive video for us is this notion that a child is getting up off the couch and actively participating in the educational content and we think that added layer of involvement and engagement will have deep educational impact. The fact that a child can play a game with video content is really intriguing to us and it adds a layer that doesn't exist with pure linear television." Microsoft and Sesame Street are also jointly working on another project codenamed Columbia to help kids learn to read. There's also a playful learning project in the works with National Geographic. SOUNDBITE: Jerry Johnson, Soho Studios General Manager saying (English): "We look at it as something that's going to continue to change the way that people think about television. I think a few years from now kids are going to think television is broken if it doesn't listen to them and react to them." Kinect Sesame Street TV will launch in spring 2012. Matt Cowan, Reuters.