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Kinect “Playful Learning” Initiative Debuts – ‘Kinect Sesame Street TV, Kinect Nat Geo TV, Project Columbia’ Interactive TV Episodes Announced

In New York on October 18, Microsoft launched a new initiative called “playful learning”, that allow children and their families to engage, interact and learn in an entirely new way — all through the magic of Kinect for Xbox 360.

“We’ve worked closely with Sesame Workshop and their production team at Sesame Street, with National Geographic and with academics and learning institutions to develop new TV entertainment experiences that allow children and families to engage, interact, have fun and learn in an entirely new way using Kinect and Xbox 360,” said Dave McCarthy, general manager for Kids and Lifestyle Entertainment at Microsoft Studios. He said, “the collaboration introduces true interactivity to children’s TV programming for the first time.”

Kinect for Xbox 360The upcoming Kinect Sesame Street TV experience, announced today is going on sale in the spring, will bring true interactivity to the classic children’s TV show. Viewers will be invited 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.

Kinect Nat Geo TV will bring NatGeo WILD to life starting this spring. In NY 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.

Microsoft is also collaborating with Sesame Workshop on a literacy and learning experience for kids in the four to seven year-old age range. Codenamed Project Columbia aims to bring story books to life and to kindle a love of reading. Through Kinect, children and families will be able to step into the pages of their favorite books and interact with characters, play with words and letters, and build their own stories. “Our goal here is not only a really entertaining experience that brings books to life like never before but also to deliver a tool to help aid the battle against childhood literacy problems,” McCarthy said.

Microsoft also unveiled today new games:

“Double Fine Happy Action Theater,” which gets kids off the couch and having fun without rules, menus or instructions. And, a new Pixar title, codenamed “Rush,” a new game in Microsoft’s collaboration with Disney.

Other new kid-friendly Kinect for Xbox 360 games available this holiday include: “Kinect: Disneyland Adventures,” “Kinectimals Now with Bears,” “Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster,” “Kinect Sports: Season Two” and “Dance Central 2.”

Microsoft’s Kinect “playful learning”:

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