Wow. It’s been a while. Sorry about that. Sometimes other things take precedent over my love of blogging, which is a real drag. But then sometimes the things are exciting and worth the departure. In the past six weeks, I have been in LA, DC, New York, London, Edinburgh and I am currently writing this from my hotel room in Auckland. Why am I logging more air time than a flight attendant, you ask? Because the products I have been working on for almost two years, Kinect Sesame Street TV and Kinect Nat Geo TV are launching September 18 and I am telling the world.
Now this may sound like I am a total shill for my products (and who are we kidding, I am), but my work has me thinking about TV. There are very few things that have changed society so dramatically as the advent of TV. Or our modern-day equivalent, the internet. I remember thinking my mother’s life was so deprived because she was born before TV. Now my girls look at me that way when I tell them I am older than the internet.
I’ve referenced the fact that I work in the video game industry, but specifically I have really been working on interactive TV products for kids, Kinect Sesame Street TV and Kinect Nat Geo TV. The irony of this is not lost on me. Me. The mother that didn’t let her kids watch TV on the weekdays until they were in middle school. The mother that would never let her kids play video games. The mother who would be perfectly happy if the space currently occupied by the TV was filled with books. Real books. With pages. Remember those?
Nonetheless, I have come to love the products I work on and believe that someday when my grandchildren take interacting with TV characters for granted, I will be able to say to them that I worked on the very first one of those. You can see Ainsley demoing the Sesame one on the CES stage in Las Vegas. So proud!
A narrative floats around our office and is brought up every time someone talks about the impact of television on kids and education.
At a Manhattan dinner party in 1966, a Carnegie Foundation executive named Lloyd Morrissett mentioned that his young daughter was so enthralled by television that she would park herself in front of the family’s set to gaze at early-morning test patterns. That story prompted a public-television producer named Joan Cooney to investigate how television could be used to package education as entertainment: “What if it went down more like ice cream than spinach?” The ensuing creation — in which kids learned everything from empathy to arithmetic under the tutelage of colorful creatures like an 8-ft.-tall canary and a misanthropic garbage-can dweller — was greeted with acclaim by parents, teachers and even President Richard Nixon. Four decades later, it’s a cultural touchstone that remains required viewing for millions of youngsters in 120 countries. (Read more from the TIME article.)
Forty years ago, parents bemoaning the effects of a new technology inspired a group of creative people to turn that paradigm on its head. A similar negative dialogue has been happening around video gaming and its effects on young people. I like to think of these products as the modern version of that dinner party conversation. How do we take innovative technology kids love and make the experience enriching? Get them out of passive TV watching to moving and learning. Now that is TV I can get behind.