Osmo Coding kit aims to be the Lego of coding

Coding is becoming an increasingly desirable skill in the modern world. There’s a growing consensus that children should be exposed to programming earlier and more often.

“We’ve got to have our kids in math and science, and it can’t just be a handful of kids. It’s got to be everybody. Everybody’s got to learn how to code early,” President Barack Obama himself said in a Re/code interview last year.

The question is: How do we do that?

Osmo is hoping that its newly announced Coding kit is part of the answer. The kit has been designed as an intuitive route into programming for young children — it’s a clever iPad accessory that aims to be as accessible as possible for boys and girls, teaching them core coding concepts as part of fun play.

“Coding is all about giving a command to a computer about what to do,” Pramod Sharma, Osmo’s CEO and founder, told Digital Trends. “What we have done with Osmo Coding is make each command a physical block. Kids can physically put together a set of commands to make simple programs.”

If you’re not familiar with Osmo, the company created a number of learning games for kids which work with a special iPad stand and camera accessory. The idea of positive and healthy screen play is at the heart of the company and so kids move physical pieces on a tabletop in front of the iPad and the Osmo apps pick up on that through the iPad’s camera.

The first batch of games challenged kids to put letter blocks together to spell out words, or create different animals and objects using a set of geometric shapes. It was an imaginative way to use the iPad that proved very popular. Now Osmo wants to bring that same tangible play idea into the realm of coding.

We got a sneak peek at the Osmo Coding kit in action. It works in concert with an app called Osmo Coding. There are various different action blocks that kids can put together, and when they press play the cute, on-screen character, Awbie, follows the sequence they’ve created to explore his colorful world.

“Effectively you are stitching instructions together, but it never feels like coding,” explained Sharma.

Children can choose from four different commands, including walk, jump, grab, and a magic command that sparks something unpredictable, such as a burst of flowers, around Awbie. There’s a dial on each block with an arrow that dictates the direction to go in. Number blocks can be added to the end, to say walk forward five, for example. Nothing happens until they add the play button to the sequence and press it.

Related Offer: Play beyond the screen with Osmo, check out their games here

They’re effectively programming the controls to prompt Awbie to explore the world, instead of using a gamepad. As they discover how to use the system through trial and error, watching the real-time action on the iPad screen, kids learn to create more and more complex sequences. There’s also a repeat block, so they can create loops and there’s a special block that can free Awbie if he gets stuck.

“We tried to remove as much frustration as possible in the gameplay,” Sharma said. “The way we’ve designed the game you don’t feel bad failing. In fact, when we test with kids they like to find fail conditions, they try to fail to see what happens.”

Some of the inspiration for the Osmo Coding kit came from MIT research about the importance of a physical, tangible element to learning for kids. Programming is an activity with a steep learning curve and it can seem inaccessible. Introducing a physical element makes it easier for children to get to grips with, quite literally.

The world’s favorite toy also played a part.

“Everyone on the Osmo team in some form or another got inspired by Lego,” says Sharma. “What’s really powerful about Lego is that you figure out what to do with it on your own. You might not build the best structure, but you can have fun and learn and build your own thing.”

There are no electronics in the Osmo Coding blocks, but the designers spent months getting the look and feel right. Magnets create a sense of haptic feedback, so it’s satisfying to snap them together, and the icons are clear.

“We believe making it intuitive is the most important aspect, nobody is telling you what to do,” Sharma explains.

There are plans to continue expanding Awbie’s world with new environments and creatures, and with challenges to suit different ages and levels of ability. Officially it’s aimed at kids ages 5 to 12, but it should appeal to kids aged 4 and up.

Just as you might learn important things about engineering or architecture as a byproduct of playing with Lego, Sharma hopes kids will learn about coding as a by-product of playing with Osmo. But in both cases, fun comes first.

“If you want every child to code, make something so awesome that kids want to do it,” suggests Sharma.

The Osmo Coding kit is available on the Osmo website starting today and will be in Apple Stores within the next couple of weeks. If you already have the Osmo base, then you can pick up the new Coding pack for $49, or you can buy the complete package, including Osmo Coding and the base, for $75.


Need a discounted Xbox bundle by Christmas? Walmart has you covered

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone, but you can still save some cash on a new Xbox One bundle at Walmart. Both the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X are on sale now.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.

The best iPhone deals for December 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for December 2018.

The best iPad deals for December 2018

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.

How to connect AirPods to your MacBook

If you have new AirPods, you may be looking forward to pairing them with your MacBook. Our guide will show you exactly how to connect AirPods to MacBook, what to do if they are already paired with a device, and more.

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.

Which Macs are compatible with MacOS Mojave?

Is your computer ready for Apple's big Mojave update? Here's what you need to know about MacOS Mojave compatibility, what Macs can successful download Mojave, and the requirements you need to know about.

MacBook Pro battery replacement: Everything you need to know

Looking for a new battery for your MacBook Pro? It's important you know what to look for, what model you have, and what options Apple gives you! We'll cover everything you need to know about Apple MacBook Pro battery replacement.

Is somebody watching you? How to stop apps from tracking your location

If you don't like the idea of your every movement being tracked by apps on the phone in your pocket, then you may want to turn location tracking off. We take a look at how to do it on an iPhone or Android phone in this easy guide.

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.