All Your Favorite Pixar Characters Are Ready to Play in Kinect Rush!

As Woody said in Pixar blockbuster Toy Story, “Reach for the sky!” He’s just one of the amazing friends you’ll get to play with in the highly anticipated Kinect Rush. 

Who isn’t a fan of Pixar’s biggest hits The Incredibles, UP, Ratatouille, and Cars? Now you’ve got the ability to literally jump into these five open worlds to help Buzz, Lightning, Remi and many more of your favorite characters solve puzzles, fight Omnibots, race, run, and fly. You can even invite a friend along in the adventures.

If you want a second opinion, Wired Dad Andy Robertson had some thoughts on the game as well. As a Xbox LIVE Gold Member if you want to try before you buy you can download a demo of Kinect Rush to your Xbox 360. As Up’s Charles Muntz said, “Adventure is out there!” Go have some!

Kinect in the Classroom

Re-posted from Microsoft News Center

CRAIG, Colo. – –First-grade teacher Cheryl Arnett spent much of last summer playing Kinect for Xbox 360 with her grandkids.

For fun, yes, but the 19-year veteran teacher at Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo., also had an agenda. A longtime lover of technology, Arnett was looking for ways to teach with Microsoft’s controller-free device. When she brought Kinect to her classroom at the start of this school year, the reaction from her enthralled students was “over the top,” she said.

First-grade teacher Cheryl Arnett introduced Kinect into her classroom at Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo., and has been delighted by the results, which include outstanding standardized test scores.

First-grade teacher Cheryl Arnett introduced Kinect into her classroom at Sunset Elementary School in Craig, Colo., and has been delighted by the results, which include outstanding standardized test scores.

“Bringing technology into the classroom inspires them,” she said. “Their lives are different than ours were, and just giving them a book and a worksheet is not always appropriate anymore. I’m fascinated by Kinect. There’s power for kids in things that capture their interest and are also something they can learn from. We’ve barely scratched the surface of where this can go; it’s limited only by our imaginations.”

Since Arnett’s students started using Kinect to study subjects like animals, geography, and science, she has seen improvements in their comprehension and the retention of what they learn.

Arnett is not alone in her quest – teachers all over the world are using technology like Kinect to teach their students.

Microsoft is working with schools across the U.S. that are testing using Kinect in the classroom to develop “21st century skills.” This week at the South by Southwest-edu innovative learning conference in Austin, Texas, Microsoft education experts will join a panel with other educators to explore the value of interactive gaming in learning, specifically using Kinect in the classroom.

There will be a lot to talk about, said Cameron Evans, National and Chief Technology Officer for U.S. Education at Microsoft. “Who would have thought one little sensor could turn out to be this phenomenal in the academic space?” he said.

Left to right: Computer science students Jebediah Pavleas and Jack Chang, and professor Robin Angotti have created a custom Kinect app that brings math to life by letting students graph functions like distance, acceleration and velocity with their bodies instead of pencil and paper.

Launched a year ago as a controller-free gaming device for Xbox, Kinect sales topped a world-record 8 million devices in the product’s first 60 days on the market. That made Kinect the fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history, according to Guinness World Records.

The device also has taken on a life of its own outside the living room, thanks to scientists, tinkerers, hobbyists, healthcare workers, and others who have taken the time to dream up and create unique non-gaming applications for it. In the case of education, academics are both using existing Kinect games for educational purposes and creating their own games and applications.

Microsoft, keen on supporting the creative ways people were using Kinect right after it came out, released an academic and hobbyist software development kit for non-commercial projects in June 2011. Aimng to support similar creativity in the commercial world, it released a commercial Kinect for Windows software development kit last month.

Pull all the creativity together, and you have the genesis of the  “Kinect Effect” – a term coined in the hallways and conference rooms of Microsoft to describe the device’s increasingly widespread appeal and diversity of uses. “It has a lot of people excited about what they can do today, and what they can dream up tomorrow,” Evans said.

Gaming is not a new idea in the classroom – what is new is Kinect, which offers a human user interface that creates a rich and simulated world that participants can be involved in. “We have the ability to get data behind game play to help inform instruction,” Evans said.

The potential behind bringing gaming to education is immense, he said.

The majority of time spent playing video games, the gamer is failing, he said. Yet when a player fails in a game, they come back again and again until they get it right. Bringing gaming to education could help a student who fails a math test, for example, keep trying until they get it right.

Reaching Out, Touching Math

Math, as it turns out, is one of the most abstract subjects to learn. Students learn it in books without easily seeing the concrete results of their work in the real world. That, say math teachers, makes it hard for them to retain what they learn.

Professor Robin Angotti uses her hands to move a line around a graph and watches its equation change. Angotti wants to use Kinect to change the way students learn math, making its abstract equations and concepts more approachable and concrete.

Robin Angotti (shown above), now an associate professor of math education at the University of Washington-Bothell, hopes to change all of that.

Angotti and two computer science students at UW-Bothell, Jebediah Pavleas and Jack Chang, have created a custom Kinect app to help teach students various functions of mathematics such as distance, acceleration, and velocity by letting them plot these equations on a graph in real time using Kinect and their bodies rather than just computing an equation with a pencil on graph paper.

“I was a high school math teacher for 10 years, and I knew I wasn’t reaching all of the students. I knew I was missing something,” Angotti said.

So she went back to school to get a Ph.D. in math education. Then she got “bit by the research bug,” which is how she came across Kinect and decided to create a math app that would bridge the gap between the abstract formulas and the real world her students live and breathe in.

“Math is a gatekeeper. If kids don’t get into algebra by their freshman year of high school, they’re off track to major in any kind of STEM [science, technology, engineering or math] field,” Angotti said. “It’s really interesting – data shows that math is a favorite subject when kids are younger. Somewhere in the middle school years, when they’re starting to have to abstract (when math moves from the concrete world of addition, subtraction and multiplication to the more abstract equations of geometry and algebra), we’re losing them. This piece of software makes math less abstract.”

When word got out that Angotti was researching Kinect apps for math, she was inundated with requests for more information and for advice from other teachers.

*

Who would have thought one little sensor could turn out to be this phenomenal in the academic space?

*

- Cameron Evans, National and Chief Technology Officer for U.S. Education at Microsoft

She, Pavleas, and Chang are already working on a next version of the app that incorporates a number of new features including a two player mode, so students will be able to use their bodies to explore math – and perhaps even solve the classic “two trains traveling at different speeds” story problem.

“It’s amazing. I think we’ve only scratched the surface. I see so many applications for education,” Angotti said. “We’re not just saying here’s the equation, or telling them what to do and having them repeat it. It’s a phenomenon where they can reach up and touch the equation, and move it around. All of a sudden they’re asking different questions, and there’s this sense of understanding.”

Students in the United States have notorious struggles with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that by 2014, the U.S. will have more than two million STEM-related jobs, but there may not be enough qualified workers to fill them.

Fewer than 15 percent of current U.S. college undergraduates are pursuing degrees in science or engineering—compared to more than 30 percent in India and more than 40 percent in China.

“In a nutshell, it’s about America’s competitiveness. Our readiness for college, career, and life is just not there,” Evans said. “In some ways, it’s because the students’ engagement isn’t there. That brings with it a ripple effect that’s going not just across communities, but across generations and time.”

First Graders Without Walls

In Colorado, Arnett’s first grade class is planning a trip to Disneyland – virtual Disneyland, that is, which they will visit with the Kinect game Disneyland Adventures. But not before they learn budgeting and calculate the finances of the trip, learn some geography should they choose to drive, and even take a field trip to the airport to learn about air travel.

At the end of the project, each group of first graders will get to spend 30 minutes playing Disneyland Adventures and will have to agree together on how to spend their time in the virtual Magic Kingdom.

“It’s a tremendous amount of math, geography, and collaborative learning,” Arnett said.

At age 40, Arnett switched careers from banking to become a teacher. She’s always loved technology, but as a teacher she helps others love it too, pioneering a technology-rich classroom, school, and school district complete with smart boards, document cameras, and now Kinect.

She’s also become an advocate for innovative technology, and has traveled around the world to meet and collaborate with other teachers through programs such as the U.S. Innovative Education Forum, presented by Microsoft Partners in Learning “The world has changed. My life has changed. I have friends from all over the world I talk to on a daily basis, and it’s all because of technology,” she said. “Never would I have imagined this for myself, but these kids are going to be doing different things in their lives ahead of them, more than I can imagine right now.”

Embracing technology has not only changed her life, but her classroom. Her students are now doing a water study project with classes in Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. The students use Skype to speak to children in other classrooms around the world. They watch webcasts from the Smithsonian Institute with experts, researchers and scientists who talk to them and teach them remotely on a variety of subjects.

Add it up, and technology and Kinect have earned a permanent place in her classroom.

“You couldn’t take me back,” she said. “And the teachers don’t have to know how to do everything – get the kids involved. There are a lot of things I don’t know the answers to, but I’m willing to work with them, and find the answers with them. We need to be the facilitators, the ones who make these opportunities available. This is important. Learning is real.”

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2012/mar12/03-06KinectEducation.mspx

GDC 2012: The Word of the Day is “Proprioception”

Today at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco Double Fine’s Nathan Martz spoke about developing Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster for Kinect.

“The ability called proprioception [From Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement] tends to be poor in children,” explained Martz, “Which means they struggle with asymmetrical gestures and frequently confuse their left and right.

“We realized we had to do was add very forgiving gestures,” said Martz. This way Once Upon a Monster doesn’t worry if the child raises her left or right hand. Determining which false negatives kids are more likely to offer and developing around it, even against common Kinect development rules, was necessary. The natural relationship with the movement of the body had to be a bit forgiving, because kids move a LOT. Sometimes kids don’t always move the way they think they want to move.

Additionally, Once Upon a Monster was designed to be as Martz explained, “Friendly to the rhythm of family life.” This means something even more dynamic than your traditional drop in/drop out multiplayer. It meant that as long as the Kinect could see someone, you keep playing.

When it came to the tried and true backbone of Sesame Street, educating kids in an entertaining way, there were additional challenges. Figuring out how to teach age appropriate lessons such as ABCs or 123′s didn’t really fit with the game. Instead, Double Fine took a “whole child education” approach that tackles larger, stickier emotional issues. Empathy, sympathy; Dreams, hopes; Wants, needs – these are the elements of the puzzles the Monsters ask kids to help solve.

“Joy is worth it,” Martz concluded. “If we want to reach a broader audience, let’s make our games about feeling more than ‘fight or flight’. We have a finite number of ideas we can express in the time that we have, and it’s incumbent on us as developers to make those ideas count.”

“Do something worth doing.”

Real Talk on Setting Up Your Kinect

Today on Wired’s Geek Dad column titular Geek Dad Andy Robertson offered a pretty awesome and concise guide to setting up your Kinect for “Real Family Conditions”

By addressing best practices and common situations and even suggesting some reasonably priced accessories to help with placement Andy provides any Kinect Player, new or old, ways to improve their Kinect experience. You can read all of them in his article here: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/03/kinect-tips/

Kinect_Lifestyle2According to Andy, “Time spent setting up the Kinect controller will mean you can get the more out of it. In my family we’ve often been a little frustrated by it. However, some investment from me to get it working has resulted in some of our most valuable play times in years — from the simple pleasure of flying with Peter Pan in Disneyland Adventures, to the instant thrill of slicing fruit in Kinect Fruit Ninja, to the eerie reality of turning my head to look left/right in Forza 4.”

Do you have any suggestions like Andy’s? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Kinect Now in White!

This one is for the style-savvy readers! Today we announced the Xbox 360 Special Edition 4GB Family Console Bundle. This limited edition bundle includes a glossy white Xbox 360 4GB console, glossy white Kinect sensor, white Xbox 360 wireless controller and a copy of two of our most popular Kinect tiles: Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures as well as a three month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold and will be available while supplies last for US $ 299.99.

With that three month XBL Gold subscription be sure to go and download Kinect Fun Labs! It is free and provides tons of family fun that you can even share here and download!

You can order it now via Amazon.com.