Back in May, I wrote about the transformation of Xbox. Since then, we’ve had a lot to say about Xbox, TV and entertainment, and honestly, the conversation has just begun.

Televised entertainment is being transformed, not only in how it’s delivered, but in how it’s becoming more social, more interactive and more personal. Easy two-way interaction creates entirely new forms of TV entertainment, and nowhere is that more apparent than on Xbox 360.

In theater and movies there is a concept of the “fourth wall,” an imaginary barrier that keeps the audience separate from the art that is unfolding in front of them. The same idea translates to TV entertainment. There have been all sorts of attempts to break the wall; who can forget Ferris Bueller talking to the audience, for example? But what if you could really break through that wall, and actually interact with your favorite characters and storylines, and become part of the show, participate naturally with the community of fans watching a popular show? Soon, with Kinect and Xbox LIVE, people will do all that and more.

In New York today, we launched a new initiative called “playful learning”, the result of our collaboration with some of the brightest minds in child learning and development. 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.

What does this look like? Well, I remember a few years back, sitting with my daughter as she watched Sesame Street. Lots of times, when Elmo or Ernie or some other character would ask a question, my daughter would answer it. She talked to the characters and interacted with them, but they never answered or acknowledged her… Now, thanks to Kinect and Xbox 360, kids will be able to interact with the characters, and actually see themselves onscreen as part of the action. The possibilities are pretty mindboggling.

We’ll also be working with Sesame Workshop on “Project Columbia” (codename), an effort to help foster a love for books and reading where children can bring their favorite story books to life by interacting with words and illustrations.

Similarly, we are working with NatGeo WILD to allow kids to explore the natural world via “Kinect Nat Geo TV.”

Microsoft has a long history of involvement with education, and today’s “playful learning” announcement is just another step in a long-term commitment to improve the lives of millions of kids by making learning fun in ways never before possible.

And “playful learning” is just the start. Through the magic of Kinect and Xbox 360, we’re developing new interactive experiences, from fitness to communication and sports to exploration, that will surprise and delight people. Finding all of this great content will be easy with Bing search and voice recognition fully integrated into the Xbox 360 and Kinect experience.

Those kinds of experiences can lead to some interesting dinner table conversations. Meanwhile, our conversation with you about the future of TV entertainment has just begun, and it’s getting a whole lot more interesting. Welcome to the party!

Posted by Frank X. Shaw
Corporate Vice President, Corporate Communications, Microsoft