Television: the Immersive Future

Innovation insights come in the strangest of places. Just yesterday I was going through the Xbox Marketplace for a game that might entertain my two year old, Jenson. What I came across was something far more than I expected... I found the future of television: immersion. Kinect Sesame Street TV is a revolutionary new 2-way TV experience on Kinect for Xbox 360 that allows children to literally jump into Sesame Street, interact with favorite characters, play in their world and learn together. The magic of Kinect for Xbox 360 transforms passive viewing into active participation, encouraging children to use their gestures, voices and bodies to interact with content on the screen. It takes the best of gaming and the best of television shows, particularly a children's favorite like Sesame Street.

Attempts at immersive experiences aren't new to children's entertainment. Dora, Diego and even the 85 year old Mickey Mouse have all redesigned their television shows to prompt the viewer for interaction. Dora will ask you to chose the right item from her backpack to complete a task, Mickey Mouse will ask you to choose a 'Mouseketool'. But what's truly brilliant about Sesame Street's approach is it leverages the power of the Kinect platform to prompt and actually see the child perform the task, like throwing a coconut into a box. The child has to get up on their feet and throw and imaginary object at the TV, brilliant. And if the child doesn't perform the task, they have deigned in prompts and instructions to help.

Did the TV ever respond when you watched your favorite show?

Television is under going a massive evolution, just like books, music and encyclopaedias recently have. Millions of people across the globe look for video entertainment not only on their favorite TV channels or cinemas, but also online. High-quality entertainment video shows are now created by professionals, independent producers and amateurs that publish their media online and free of charge. Television is having to respond to the demand by viewers for avenues to break free from the contraints of broadcast television. While this new media workflow creates added-value services for end-users (e.g., personalizing their TV viewing), it also breaks traditional TV concepts and affects key economic functions such as program scheduling, audience measurement, and targeted advertisement.

Where is television or video going? How far can it go? Where does Television and Gaming merge?

Entertainment producers are keen to push things on parallel senses. Coming from a movie pedigree,  Transformers: The Ride is, at its core, a motion-base ride vehicles moving through a show building where you watch action heros battle bad guys on 3-D screens embedded into the show scenes. Transformers takes the experience to new levels,  with action faster, wilder and more three-dimensional than we've seen before. When I say "three-dimensional," I don't just mean in the sense of stuff popping off the screen in front of you. The designers of  Transformers make more extensive use of three-dimensional space. It's not just robots moving back and forth and side-to-side. Riding Transformers, you really get a sense of height, and the vertical scale of these multi-story Autobots and Decepticons fighting in front you. The viewer sits in a EVAC, a personnel transporter, swooping through a skyscrapers and canyons, then suddenly whipped into an office building. The transition from outdoors to indoors as you crash through the building's glass wall amplifies your sense of speed. Flying indoors you're just inches away from the objects hurtling past you, instead of yards away from obstacles as you were outdoors a split second ago. The immersion is an outright attach of the senses. The ride is filled with moments that, trigger your senses of speed, direction and even touch turn instantly.

Immersion is an outright attack of the senses

One of the limitations fo immersion is it doesn't scale very well. Rides are usually limited a single physical installation taking on a handful of people at a time. But Sesame Street's approach takes the entertainment scale into the lounge room, a move that could put it years ahead of others in the children's entertainment space.

The reality is we've hit the limitations of big screens and surround sound. Entertainment of tomorrow will immerse more senses into the experience, and even respond to our commands or movement. Making us truly a piece of the action.

Such an exciting possibility