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New Osmo for iPad gadget brings a touch of reality to educational games (video)

by David Needle

May 22 2014

Osmo's Reflective Artificial Intelligence camera recognizes real world objects like letter tiles.
Osmo's Reflective Artificial Intelligence camera recognizes real world objects like letter tiles.

Games and even educational apps can be addictive, but also relatively passive. A new device for the iPad called Osmo changes all that. 

Using what its creators call Reflective Artificial intelligence, Osmo reflects the iPad's camera in a way that, with the help of software, lets it recognize physical game pieces and other objects to make physical interactions part of the experience. For example, on Osmo game challenges you to spell out the name of what you see on the screen (e.g. a horse) by tossing letter tiles in front of the iPad).

“Our vision is we want to create apps based on actual reality rather than virtual reality,” Pramod Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Osmo creator Tangible Play, told TabTimes during a demo. “And part of this is that using the iPad doesn’t have to be an isolated experience; we’re creating social interactions that bring kids together to solve problems.”

So far the stealth Silicon Valley startup has had a hundred schools in six countries test the product. The well-designed package consists of the camera piece that connects to the top of the iPad and a stand that keeps the iPad upright. Osmo ships with three games, Newton, Tangram and Words, and Sharma says there are 10 more on the way.

With Newton you build structures using pen and paper that become part of the onscreen game; Tangram uses traditional tangram wooden pieces to solve puzzles that cause the onscreen game to light up revealing a map and more challenging puzzles; Words shows pictures as word clues. Players try and figure out the word by tossing letter tiles in front of the iPad screen. Two or more players or teams can take turns to see who gets the answer first.

Sharma says the design goal was to make to the product attractive and very consumer friendly with an “Apple quality experience.” While declining to elaborate he said people at Apple “have helped us a lot.”


Osmo will ship with three games designed for ages 6 to 12 and Tangible Play has launched a crowd funding campaign at its website. Early supporters will be able to get the Osmo for $49, far less than the ‘regular’ price of $99.

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