Kids love tablet computers, whether it's filling yours with their apps, or having their very own. But no one likes seeing their little ones turned into screen zombies disengaged from the world, and people, around them. Osmo is an iPad gaming device which aims to bring real world and social play to the iPad, by transforming the space in front of the tablet into an interactive environment.

Osmo, from Tangible Play, is the brainchild of a pair of ex-Googlers who, after having kids, decided they wanted to create a way of bringing real-world play back into digital gaming to encourage social interaction, creative thinking and problem-solving. After 12 months, and several prototypes, they came up with Osmo.

It consists of a base which holds the iPad, a mirror unit which attaches over its camera, and physical play pieces for a series of game apps. Using the mirror unit and proprietary Reflective AI technology, the iPad is able to read physical movements on the surface in front of it, and incorporate them into gameplay. This was important to the inventors as it opens up the playing surface to more than one user, in a way tablet screens don't allow.

Three games – aimed at children aged 6 to 12 – will be released with Osmo, two of which use physical pieces which come with the device. Tangram is a puzzle game where geometric shapes are used to construct a picture on the tablet screen. In Words, players use Scrabble-like tiles to spell out a word that represents the image on the screen. Finally, Newton doesn't come with any play pieces, but instead incorporates anything from the real world into the game, where users manipulate the direction of balls falling on the screen by drawing lines or placing objects in front of the iPad.

All of the games are designed so that they can be played alone, or socially with friends, parents or teachers. Prior to its launch, Osmo has been tested in over 100 schools around the world and the makers say the response has been extremely positive. Educators have reported back that the actual reality play of Osmo brings kids together around an iPad and engages them to learn collaboratively.

"Unlike other iPad games, Osmo is meant to be played with someone else right next to you" said Pramod Sharma who, along with Jerome Scholler, founded Tangible Play and created Osmo. "We’ve seen during our testing that even when students have their own station they go and play with other kids. We’re setting up a natural environment for kids to practice interpersonal skills in a safe place. Unlike other tablet games which isolate kids, Osmo inspires kids to seek social interaction."

Tangible Play is using its own crowdfunding campaign to launch Osmo, with a target of US$50,000. Osmo kits, which include the base and mirror units along with the pieces for Tangram and Words, can be pre-ordered now, with a limited number available for $49. The kit will eventually retail for $99 and should start shipping later this year, assuming it reaches production. The games can be downloaded for free and Osmo is compatible with the iPad 2 or newer iPads, along with all mini versions.

Check out the video below to see Osmo in action.

Source: Play Osmo

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