Ro Ramtohul has just finished his final year in the Digital Interaction Design course at Dundee University and created an extraordinary cultural gesture program for kids that gets them off the couch and learning via their TV.

“I was watching TV in the UK and I found it to be very narrow when it comes to the cultures of different countries. I thought about the TV shows with Brits on holiday and how they are often seen as a bit ignorant of other languages and culture. I wanted to do something about that,” says Ramtohul.

That was the seed of three months of research and a further three weeks of code to create Reculture. The set-up works with a Windows Phone hooked up to a Kinect. When the user passes with their phone, the Kinect registers they are there and it’s up to the them to then learn gestures in order to control the TV.

The cute aspect to this is that although you can override the app with a remote control, if you don’t have that control, you have to use gestures. So kids have to learn something and get up out of their seat in order to change the channel.

Ramtohul observed how kids with smartphones watch TV and says they are surprisingly active. “They don’t just sit and watch TV,” he says. “They play with their phones and text their friends. So I thought it might work to have something on the phone that works with the TV.”

The research that Ramtohul did for the app included sending packs with instructions and pipe-cleaner models to people in Japan, China, Holland and India, to get people there to take photographs of the little figures performing gestures used in their culture. It’s a nice touch to have information from these locations and Ramtohul says that he learned a lot along the way. “I was surprised to find that most Western cultures have really similar gestures. It’s when you head further East that there is a lot more to learn.”

Ramtohul has updated his blog with his progress so you can check out early stage testing there. In the video you can see the first attempts to control a TV with a gesture, in this case, a Japanese bow.

Ramtohul can see this working as something educational institutions can benefit from by sharing it with students. As more kids get smart phones, chances are that they will be able to interact with homework on them in similar ways. This could be a start on getting fun educational materials into the hands of children on a device they are probably already familiar with.

If you want to take a look at the Windows Phone app for Reculture as a stand-alone item, it’s free on the Windows Phone Marketplace.