"We have never tried this," she said. "We've never taken a 'Sesame Street' episode and turned it into an interactive experience."
Truglio points to a math example. There's a scene in the show where Grover slips on a banana peel and drops a box of coconuts. Kids who don't want to interact with Grover can continue watching the show. Or, they can stand up and throw virtual coconuts back to Grover, who will count out the pitches until he gets six. At the Sesame Workshop, Jack and Zoe mimicked throwing the coconuts and counted with Grover until they got all of them.
"We want to get children to understand what '5' is, or the meaning of what '6' is," Truglio said. "They have to throw 6 times (so) you have an action that is linked to a number."
This kind of "transfer" — learning something in one context and translating it to another context, is a "holy grail" for Sesame Street, said Fran Blumberg, professor at Fordham University's graduate school of education who focuses on educational psychology.
"Sesame has been wildly successful," she says, "The question is whether it will be enhanced with this new game."
Jessica Shyba (who blogs about parenting in Manhattan at MommasGoneCity.com), said she prefers to see her kids play the game rather than watching regular TV.
"If they watch TV I can't even ask them what they want for lunch," she says, noting that passive television viewing turns them into "little zombies." But with the interactive game, Shyba says, "I can hear them talking, yelling, waving their arms. That, to me, is really cool."
Atkins said the making of "Kinect Sesame Street" involved a lot of real-world testing with children. It was through trial and error that the designers learned that it didn't work well when characters gave children very direct orders like "throw the ball" or "throw the ball now." The children in early tests became resistant and didn't feel involved in the story. So they changed the timing. In the game, Elmo waits for kids to throw and says "please." He's also careful not to ask too many times, because kids can get overwhelmed and lose interest.
Unlike a video game, in "Kinect Sesame Street" kids never need to do anything unless they want to. But if they do, the designers' rule was that "there needs to be an immediate response," Atkins said.
It was also crucial to only ask kids to do simple actions that are part of their everyday vocabulary. In Sesame, this includes jumping, throwing, waving, pointing, clapping, standing and perhaps the most challenging task for some of them, standing still.
"We came up with those things because we knew they were things we would never have to explain to a child," he said.
Sesame also doesn't tell kids they are wrong, or that they have to do something over. If that happened, Atkins said, "It would stop being a TV show and revert back to being a game."
Shyba's only concern is "Kinect Sesame Street" relatively short shelf life.
Navigating Kinect requires some basic skills that might be difficult for young children. Zoe, who turns 4 on Wednesday, hasn't quite mastered the setup but even she "kind of feels like 'Sesame Street' is babyish," Shyba said. "Granted, she has an older brother."
At 5, Jack is all but over "Sesame," and much more interested in another interactive TV-game, based on nature shows from National Geographic. "Kinect Nat Geo TV," another Xbox offering out this week, lets kids take the shape of on-screen animals, look for their tracks in the snow or take photos of them by saying the word "snap" when they appear.
"This kind of interactive programming is going to really be a significant part of the entertainment experience of children, teens and adults," Woodard said. "We are just at the beginning."