Kids often have Bert and Ernie as imaginary friends, but they can actually see them move thanks to a collaboration between Qualcomm Inc. and Sesame Workshop. The partners demonstrated an augmented reality experience prototype playset at 2012 International CES that brings physical toys to life.

The demo uses Qualcomm’s newly branded Vuforia augmented reality platform. By pointing a tablet with Vuforia at the playset, the characters, pieces and play environment seem to come alive when viewed through the tablet’s camera. The demo playset includes Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, along with some common household objects. One scene in the demo puts the characters into a familiar-seeming living room, while the other puts them into a bathroom. Ernie’s signature rubber ducky wasn’t visible in the demo, but every child knows it’s there somewhere.

As much fun as it is to play with, the collaboration’s idea is to explore how this technology can be used as part of children’s early learning experiences.

“In the past, the only place toys came to life was on TV and in movies. Today, we are bringing that magic one step closer to reality,” said Jay Wright, senior director of business development at Qualcomm. “With the ability to recognize 3D objects, Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform will transform the play experience. Our collaboration with the Sesame Workshop is helping us demonstrate the power of augmented reality to enrich children’s lives.”

Vuforia is already being used by more than 17,000 developers to transform real-world objects into interactive experiences to do with gaming, education, advertising, packaging and other uses.

Terry Fitzpatrick, chief content and distribution officer, Sesame Workshop, noted that Sesame Workshop’s programs and products are thoroughly researched and tested to make sure they engage children in a way that maximizes learning.

“Much of Sesame Workshop’s success can be attributed to our collaborative, research-intensive approach to the development of programs and activities,” he said. “Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform offers a new dimension to mobile experiences. We think it can bring enhanced entertainment and educational benefits to children.”

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