Sesame Street and breaking TV’s 4th wall

Something great is happening with Sesame Street, and it does not involve The Count making an appearance in True Blood to teach numeracy to uneducated vampires. It’s more centred around the evolution of TV and a move toward web interaction principles being applied to live content that lives on the box.

Last week, the open source hack fest that is Microsoft Kinect spawned the next generation of TV under the innocuous guise of Project Columbia. Partnering with Sesame Street, they are creating downloadable linear episodes of the show that like a computer game, are fully interactive, immersive and controllable. Through Kinetic’s Natural User Interface kids can control games within the show, explore it’s environments and interact with the characters. Kids learn through play and the game turns these actions into an educational experience. Kinaesthetic learning is hardwired into us from birth.

What for me is interesting, is the blend of gaming principles with those of traditional linear TV. A degree of interaction and diversion from the central story is allowed, but by and large it still conforms to a predetermined narrative that cannot be deviated from. It becomes both ‘lean forward’ and ‘lean back’, and though participation is not essential to progress through the story, it will enhance the experience, but it won’t leave it static as the case would be in a game. Basically if you want to sit on the sofa and do nothing you can, participation is tiered.

Where this may get interesting is when the tiers of participation move up toward narrative control and the medium becomes the extremities of both active and passive, and user will be able to seamlessly transcend between gaming and watching, from controlling content to merely consuming it as we do now. And also when when this level control becomes Social and able to be influenced by the many, but still tailored to the individual. We would see the Saturday night viewing experience become the Saturday night immersion experience. Appointment to view on our own terms.

Microsoft are due to release  Sesame Street along with a National Geographic project and a potential Pixar partnership late next year. From that point on the next generation of digital natives will likely view this as the norm, “as for some children, analogue objects are simply broken computers”, like this dude:

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