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Microsoft stepping up with Kinect for Kids

We’ve talked before about the potential that Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 has for family and child gaming with the level of interactivity that it can provide without needing a controller. But Microsoft are really going all out with this one. On Tuesday, they announced a number of new projects focused on kids using Kinect, including plans for interactive TV along with an extended collaboration with Disney.

Playful Learning

Microsoft are working along with Sesame Workshop and National Geographic to provide what they call “playful learning” experiences. The first to be announced include Kinect Sesame Street TV, Kinect Nat Geo TV, and what is currently being codenamed Project Columbia. The idea is to get everybody off the couch and interacting with the characters on TV to have fun while learning something.

“We know that the most effective learning environments for children are those that are engaging and exciting, and that foster collaboration and a positive attitude toward learning,” said Alex Games, Ph.D. curriculum and learning sciences expert and educational design director for Microsoft. “With the controller-free magic of Kinect, we can encourage kids to use their motor skills and to learn using their body in immersive experiences. This new way to play allows children to learn by interacting with their favorite characters and engage with content in novel ways.”

Kinect Sesame Street TV will see interactive versions of shows from the current season of Sesame Street, with Kinect-exclusive content also being filmed for inclusion. In addition, there will be access to classic clips from the Sesame Street archives. Your kids will be able to use the abilities of Kinect to interact with Sesame Street like never before.

“Sesame Workshop and Microsoft are committed to producing rich engaging content in a new media platform for children who will have positive educational experiences,” said Rosemarie Truglio, PhD, vice president Education and Research, Sesame Workshop. “This partnership is an opportunity to combine the interactive platform of Kinect with Sesame Workshop’s 42 years of innovative and research-based approaches to educational content. This new media experience allows for meaningful learning — leveraging kids’ gross motor abilities by creating exciting, gesture-based movements that allow them to connect with our characters and content.”

Kinect Nat Geo TV sounds really intriguing. Unfortunately, we don’t have Nat Geo WILD in Canada, so I don’t have much insight as to what we can expect, but from reading over some of the shows they’ve had, it sounds like there is some serious potential for kids to learn about all sorts of wild animals in fun and interactive ways.

“Nat Geo WILD is an ideal partner for Kinect, turning passive television viewing into a creative, immersive experience where kids and families can actually interact with our unique content,” said Brad Dancer, senior vice president of Digital Media and Research, National Geographic Channels. “By partnering the stories, images and information from Nat Geo WILD with the Kinect platform, we are pushing the boundaries of traditional television and gaming to help inspire and train the next generation of explorers.”

Project Columbia, also being designed with Sesame Workshop, looks to involve interactive books. Children can interact with the words and illustrations to help bring the stories to life. The idea seems to be that playing along with the books will help children understand better what has been written.

As a parent, this is very fascinating stuff that Microsoft is looking to do. It wasn’t really front of mind when we first heard about the Kinect peripheral, but I have to applaud the focus that Microsoft is putting on not just gaming for kids and families, but now on new and innovative ways for kids to learn with it. They’ve involved some big players like Sesame Workshop, National Geographic, and the Games for Learning Institute out of New York University to make this all come together. It bodes well not just for now, but it sounds like we can expect even more great experiences in the future.

More Family Gaming

Kinect already has an impressive number of family games going for it, and it’s no secret that we’re really looking forward to Kinect: Disneyland Adventures in November. The relationship with Disney is going to continue with codenamed project Rush, scheduled for Spring 2012. Rush will have families interacting with worlds from popular Disney•Pixar films The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and Cars 2. Players will actually be able to scan themselves into those worlds and try to solve challenges in the game.

“Creating amazing games is part of Microsoft Studios’ DNA, and with Kinect, we have the power to transform these experiences beyond what was thought possible,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios. “By joining forces with iconic brands such as Disney and Pixar, Kinect and Xbox 360 can bring families together more than ever.”

And if you were wondering if Tim Schafer and the folks at Double Fine would be doing any more projects with Kinect after the recently released Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, the answer is yes. Double Fine Happy Action Theatre is a new project from the studio promising a series of interactive activities to be enjoyed by all ages. Available this holiday through Xbox Live, there will be 18 experiences that will be like interactive toys that players will interact with using Kinect. Some examples given are an undersea adventure, playing with lava, or channeling your inner Godzilla and stomping buildings as a giant monster.

Microsoft are really putting on a full court press here in an effort to establish Kinect as THE destination for family gaming and enhanced learning experiences for children. Safe to say, we’re eagerly anticipating these announced projects, and other ideas that will come down the pipe in the future. This is potentially a game changer, and we’ll be keeping an eye on any further developments.

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http://www.gamerpops.com

Co-founder and Managing Editor of GamerPops, Jeff Peeters is a husband and father of three precious and energetic boys who make every day an adventure. When it's daddy gaming time, he enjoys games in the inFAMOUS, Assassin's Creed, and Uncharted series. Follow him on Twitter @jpeeters.


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