Are your eyes getting tired just watching your kid stare endlessly at your iPad? What happened to real toys, you may ask yourself. Well, they haven’t gone anywhere, but building blocks and Crayola crayons just don’t seem to be getting the love they used to get. Now, a new startup called Tangible Play hopes to change that with Osmo, a app and hardware kit that takes real toys and connects them with your iPad.
Right now, the company has three different game sets that work with corresponding apps for iPad:
- Tangram: This old-fashioned Tangram game brings back a wave of childhood memories.
- Newton: Newton is a drawing app slash obstacle course.
- Words: This is a Scrabble-like game that asks you to guess the correct word based on the letters you see on the screen.
All of these games include brightly colored, physical toys that connect in real-time to the apps on your iPad, where you see the difficult task that awaits you.
Once you’ve downloaded the companion apps, all that’s left is to clip on the small, red mirroring device that reflects the gaze of your iPad’s camera 90 degrees downward to the table top or floor you are playing on with the physical toys. The camera than sends the visual information of what you are doing with the physical toys to the app, which then interprets and reflects your actions on the iPad screen. The apps use incredible optical recognition and artificial intelligence to understand what’s happening on the table and turns the iPad into a gaming screen.
The Tangram game is pretty self-explanatory. A specific shape appears on the iPad display and you then have to manipulate the puzzle pieces until you complete the design. When you get it right, the shape flashes on the screen. With Words, you try to form the correct word using physical letter tiles. Newton is the most original and video-game like of all the apps. To play, you take a piece of paper and a drawing implement. Then, you place an obstacle like keys or a toy dinosaur on the paper and try to create a structure with lines to avoid bouncing balls and hit targets.
The idea behind Osmo is that kids should actually play with real-world objects rather than limiting their interactions to a virtual reality onscreen. Real play is important because it helps develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and a strong social IQ (if they’re playing with their friends). Former Google employees and proud parents Pramod Sharma and Jérôme Scholler created Osmo to give their kids a new kind of toy that offers both physical and digital learning.
Right now, Osmo is in the early stages of a crowd-funding campaign. Pre-orders for the game bundle are available now for $49, but Osmo will retail for $99 when it reaches its $50,000 fundraising goal. The game apps and the toy kits are compatible with the iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPad Mini Retina, and iPad Air.