Tell us a little about Osmo and how the idea formed?
TangiblePlay was founded in 2013 by us, Jerome Scholler and Pramod Sharma -- two Stanford alums and ex-Googlers with kids.
We’d see kids glued to screens, hunched over and not interacting with people, and we began to think about the effects of of technology on kids growing up. So many useful life skills aren’t learned through textbooks and memorization, it takes soft social skills to have a successful professional and social life; we want to make sure our children have the important skills that can’t be automated by robots. So we began to make a totally new game experience that can keep a kid interested while creating an engaging and inviting environment that naturally gives kids a chance to interact socially and creatively reason.
With Osmo, we’re combining our expertise in games and and bridging the digital and the physical to make something truly unique that we’re both passionate about. Osmo’s mission is to bring real world play back into digital gaming, and we’re excited to have people join our new play movement!
Osmo brings to life the possibility of creating in the real world while harnessing the power of the digital world. Why is this important?
This mixing of worlds is why Osmo’s games fire up multiple intelligences at once--spatial, interpersonal and motor skills; this is a way more nourishing experience than a simple touch-screen experience where you entirely zone in on the game and lose sight of the outside world. Osmo encourages children to interact outside of a 10 inch screen. This expansion of the play space encourages kids to talk with others, engage in conversation and have a real social experience.
Osmo games promote creative thinking and problem solving. Even with Words and Tangram, where there is one correct solution, there are myriad ways to arrive there. Kids actively learn with Osmo - it invites them to experiment with different real world objects and get real time feedback through the game screen. Unlike other games, Osmo intuitive gameplay and feedback keeps frustration low and helps kids devise new strategies. Also, kids aren’t hunched over when playing Osmo - it’s less time they spend sitting with bad posture.
The interactive element of the games make Osmo a very social experience where children and adults are excited to join in. What are some of the skills that students gain from engaging in Osmo?
Unlike other iPad games, Osmo is meant to played with someone else right next to you. Kids interact with the friends right next to them as they play the game. Quantifying social skills is hard, but it’s intuitive to see that if a kid is talking to a peer, using spatial awareness and displaying creative thinking while playing a game, this is giving him a multi-faceted experience that simultaneously touches different parts of the brain - logic, emotion, reasoning - in a nourishing way.
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 isolates kids, Osmo inspires kids to seek social interaction.
Tangrams make an excellent fit for your technology, was this what led you to develop this aspect of maths first?
When we were developing the Osmo concept and thinking of creative ways to use our Reflective AI, Tangrams was a game that we immediately thought would be an excellent fit. It is a great game that introduces spatial reasoning and geometry to children, but frankly, the analogue version gets boring for children fairly quickly. With Osmo we are able to give children feedback on how they are putting the shapes together and further gamify the experience. By doing this we are able to challenge children with increasingly more complex and engaging puzzles.
Newton is really a unique concept in terms of gaming for the iPad. What led you to develop this concept?
With Newton we wanted to see how far we could push our Reflective AI technology and explore what would be possible. We created a game similar to other successful touchscreen games that challenge gamers to manipulate a digital space and use physics to achieve a goal. These games are great at getting kids to understand how actions will have different effects on a space.
For Newton we took that mechanic and added another level to it. Instead of manipulating a digital space and watching for the digital effect we wanted to have people actually manipulate the physical space in front of them. Instead of tapping a screen we wanted to encourage kids to be creative and experiment with different ways to solve a puzzle. You can draw lines, or put a toy in front of the tablet, or use hands. By having kids play in the physical space Newton is only limited by the players creativity. This experience sets Osmo apart from everything else.
Words really redefines the concept of Hangman. What led you to develop this concept?
Word games are extremely popular. In schools they are used to teach spelling and build vocabulary and at home we play them to stay sharp and have fun. Osmo Words have players racing to uncover a hidden word that represents the image shown onscreen. Players can collaborate with or compete against a friend to see who can guess the word that relates to the picture shown on the screen first by quickly or strategically tossing letters into the playspace to spell out the word. With Words we took aspects of popular word games and built off of them in conjunction with our Reflective AI to build an experience that can be fun and frantic and educational all at once.
Have you been pleased with the reception to Osmo so far?
We have been extremely pleased with the reception of Osmo. We hit our goal in only 6.5 hours and our video has over a million views on YouTube. People have really connected with our idea of a new Play Movement, blending a digital and physical experience to help foster the kind of skills that will allow our children to succeed in life. We can’t be thankful enough for all the amazing support our campaign has received and continues to receive every day.
What’s next for Osmo? Do you plan to release any new games soon?
We are continually in the process of expanding our games library. We may create additional physical kits in the future to open up Osmo to different experiences, but for now we are focused on delivering our first product and making an amazing experience.
Thanks for speaking with us Pramod. We've really enjoyed playing around with Osmo since we got our hands on the kit earlier in the year and look forward to all future developments with the project.
Follow Osmo on Twitter - @playosmo
You can also find out more about the company by visiting the official website at www.playosmo.com.