Microsoft embraces its inner child with Sesame Street, National Geographic

Kids with an Xbox 360 and Kinect motion gaming accessory are about to get up, close and personal with some of their favourite characters, with interactive Sesame Street and National Geographic Wild TV shows on the way.

Announced this week, Microsoft is partnering with trusted educational brands Sesame Street and National Geographic to produce interactive episodes of its TV shows designed to promote “playful learning” experiences.

For “Kinect Sesame Street TV”, new material and interactive versions of episodes from the current season of Sesame Street are being filmed to work with the Kinect. Once online, kids will be able to interactive with characters such as Elmo and Cookie Monster, effectively making them part of the Sesame Street experience.

“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 favourite characters and engage with content in novel ways.”

A second Sesame Street Kinect project is also underway, codenamed “Project Columbia”. This concept will use the Kinect to bring stories to life, potentially changing the way kids learn to read.

National Geographic will be participating as well, offering “Kinect Nat Geo TV”, an interactive TV show pushing nature and science edutainment through the motion gaming medium.

“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 at National Geographic. “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.”

Pricing has yet to be announced for the interactive TV shows, but Microsoft hopes to get the interactive TV shows to kids – and parents – by May 2012.

"Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster" lets your children play with their favourite characters from the TV series.

While the release of these new concepts will miss the school holiday season in Australia, Microsoft is still planning several new titles for kids, including a bear-friendly version of “Kinectimals”, “Kinect: Disneyland Adventures”, and the educational “Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster”.