Tangible Play's new tablet accessory called Osmo is offering a different approach on how parents should look at virtual play on touchscreen devices, such as Apple's iPad, and the widely debated effects on their children.
Osmo puts together both the physical and virtual worlds of gaming by interconnecting concrete play objects and the addictive device screens into a cool new interactive play set. The company calls the technology they used at Osmo as "Reflective Artificial Intelligence," meaning the game accessory makes uses of a reflective camera that allows it to view the things placed across the tablet.
The Osmo accessory has a white stand that will hold the iPad vertically and a red clip that will cover up the tablet's camera. When things are in place, there's an internal mirror that will function and redirect the focus of the camera to the area on the table fronting the iPad. The area in focus will serve as the gameplay zone.
The Osmo tablet accessory comes with two packaged games, Tangram and Words, and additional accessories. Tangram is a conventional Chinese puzzle game that consists of seven wood objects in various shapes and colors, which can be combined to come up with limitless number of shapes. Words, meanwhile, is similar to Pictionary. It has letter cards in two sets and in two various colors, which allow for single or dual player.
There's a third game that doesn't need much but a simple paper and marker. It's a drawing game wherein Osmo shows some falling balls on the iPad screen and the player should ensure that the objects hit other displayed objects on screen.
Though the Osmo project targets kids 6 to 12 years of age, adults can also play with it along with the children, the company says.
Former Google employees, including Pramod Sharma and Jerome Scholler, who are dads themselves, founded the company Tangible Play. Both have mixed emotions on how tablet computers are affecting the children of today and felt that children on screen for hours is a concerning sight. This has become one of the reasons the company developed such game accessory for iPad tablets.
"You don't pay attention to what is around you. That is not healthy. Technology should remove that, and we are working on it," Sharma tells VentureBeat, noting that the Osmo project is close to his heart because he also has a daughter.
Regardless, Sharma also believes there's no stopping technology now.
"I do not think you can avoid technology in today's world," he says. "It is good for us in many ways. But there's a right way and a wrong way to play with it. Osmo is the right way," he points out.
Tangible Play's Osmo was tested the last two months in some schools to see how children play with it and to get feedback from teachers as well, further shaping the vision of the company. The tablet accessory is only available for pre-orders at the moment through a crowdfinancing campaign, giving early birds the opportunity to purchase the accessory for $50. The company, however, plans to sell it at $100 when it officially rolls out later this year.
Here's a fun video of how Osmo works on the iPad: