360 Boku: Kids as Programmers

Microsoft researchers showed off several new technologies that the company has been incubating in its Microsoft Research and Live Labs divisions Wednesday and Thursday at the ETech conference, a four-day event on emerging technology.

One piece of software demonstrated was called Boku, a virtual world Xbox 360 game that challenges kids to program a character's actions to win.

Matt MacLaurin, a software engineer in the creative systems group at Microsoft Research who showed off Boku, said he modeled it after work from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Seymour Papert. Papert developed a simple scripting language to work with schoolkids and get them into programming.

The premise of the game is that Boku lives on a virtual island, and he has various challenges living in the world, like eating for survival. He can't solve these challenges unless the child helps him with the code. For example, kids can program Boku to use its vision sensors to detect a red apple on the screen, and then set other rules to eat the apple.

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