I’ve seen a few ads and reviews in tech magazines and on some popular websites, but didn’t really understand what Osmo was until we got our hands on it. Osmo is an accessory for your iPad that comes with four gaming apps designed to get you and your family to interact with the iPad in a whole new way. It was designed to go beyond the screen and change the way you play.
Osmo is designed to work on the iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPad Mini Retina and the iPad Air. The Osmo starter kit comes with the Osmo Base & Reflector, Tangram game pieces, Words game pieces and all three original apps. There is also a new app that was just released, Masterpiece, that adds yet another dimension to this system.
Before I get into the details of each app and the toys that accompany the system, I’d like to discuss some basics of the design of the packaging and the system. First, it is important to note that the Osmo game system was created by young parents with technology and engineering backgrounds. Their goal is to utilize new technology to nurture positive play. What could be better for your budding little geniuses? Everything about the system reflects these goals. The box is bright, colorful, and simple, yet it has some neat features such as magnetic boxes that help keep everything all neatly together. The pieces that come with the game are sturdy enough for little hands, but not bulky enough to get in the way of a busy lifestyle. In addition to providing information about Osmo for parents and educators, the Osmo website has great setup instructions and how-to-play videos for each app which makes it super easy for parents to start using the games right away.
The evening we retrieved the system, all three of our children were instantly intrigued. It’s just cool. It works with reflective artificial intelligence that basically brings real life toys into the digital realm. And, with console video games like Disney Infinity and Skylanders being so hugely popular, we know that this is going to immediately entrance our children. But, better yet, it also has the added benefit of entrancing educators and parents who want the children in their care to actively engage their brains while playing.
Setup is simple. You simply download all four apps from the app store, you remove any protective case you have on your iPad, you place the iPad in the white Osmo base, and you clip on the red Reflector. (You might have to adjust the base for an iPad mini, but simple instructions are included). And that’s it, you’re ready to play.
My middle child is 6 years old and one of those children that can play with blocks, puzzles, and building toys for hours. But, if you ask him to sit in a chair and read or do schoolwork, he buzzes around like a bumblebee. His bottom rarely touches a chair. However, as soon as he saw the wooden tangram pieces that came with the system, he was hooked. He sat at the dining room table and played for a solid hour before we cut off his screen time.
Osmo Tangram is a puzzle game played with colorful wooden pieces. The goal of the game is to create the picture displayed on the iPad screen with the wooden pieces on the table in front of you. The pieces light up as you put them together in the correct place. Completing puzzles unlocks new puzzles at the same level. And yes, there are hints. You earn more hints by completing puzzles. The puzzles come in four basic levels. Simple, Easy, Medium, and Difficult. The levels are color coded to make it easier for children to follow. The game is designed for ages six and over which seemed like a fairly accurate age rating. We think a younger child would be able to play with a parent, but would get easily frustrated on their own. Our toddler was intrigued by the pretty colors and shapes and was happy to sit on our lap and try to help. She loved identifying the animal or shape that the completed puzzle would become. From an educational standpoint, there are so many things that your children can learn from this game. Tangram reinforces creative thinking, shapes, geometry, spatial recognition, fine motor skills, and more. Because you can unlock up to 400 puzzles, this game seems to be have a fairly decent replay value. My son went back to puzzles that he already completed in an attempt to finish them more quickly.
My oldest child is a reader at heart. Spelling and writing come as naturally to him as breathing. He loves making up rhymes, playing word games and coming up with pun-ny grammar jokes. Being a nine year old boy, he is also obsessed with video games. At first, he was less than interested in playing an educational game. But, he started playing Words against his Mom, and as soon as he started getting rewarded for scoring points, he was hooked.
Words comes with two sets of cardboard alphabet tiles. One set is red, the other is blue. All of the letters are uppercase to avoid confusion. The tiles are typical of standard board game tiles, and replacement tiles are available. The goal of the game is to guess the correct word before you use up all of your available guesses. It’s kind of a mash-up of I Spy and Hangman. Players are shown an image on the screen and toss letters down onto the playing field to guess the word. There are small yellow circles at the bottom of the screen to show you how many letters the word has. Players can work together and play cooperatively with just one colored set, or they can play against each other in versus mode using both sets. Words has two different leveled games built in. It has a Junior version for preschool aged children and very early readers. It also has a Classic version for older players. The word puzzles ramp up as you go, so harder puzzles can even be a challenge for adults. One of the neat features of versus mode, is that all players score points based on the number of letters they get correct. The points do not simply go to the player who solved the puzzle. Another great feature is that you can create your own puzzles on MyOsmo.com. This is an excellent element for homeschool parents and educators, as they can create puzzles to go along with topics that their students are studying. The educational aspects of this game are fairly obvious. They include creative thinking, letter recognition, reading reinforcement, and social learning. My oldest son found the competitive race to complete words super fun, and since you can create your own puzzles, the replay value of this game is endless.
My husband loves traditional early arcade style games, games like Pong, Breakout, and Arkanoid. They were the very first ball drop and basic physics games. Newton takes these games to the next level. The game is very similar to a PC game titled Crayon Physics Deluxe but with a unique Osmo twist. My husband found himself playing this game much longer than he anticipated when he first looked at it. It seemed very simplistic, but the challenges become more difficult as you reach each goal.
Unlike Osmo’s Tangram and Word games, this game has no special pieces. All you need is the app, the base, a piece of paper and some markers. And, by the name of the game, you can probably figure out that it is a physics based game. A ball drops out of the top of the screen and you draw lines, buckets, and shapes on the paper to direct the ball to hit certain targets. You can even place household objects on the paper in front of you and the camera will translate the object onto the screen. The game automatically pauses and the lines turn red when you are drawing. It resumes and the lines turn back to blue as your hand is moved away from the play area. You can turn this feature off to make the game more of a challenge. As with all of the previous Osmo apps, this game has a plethora of educational values. The game is engaging and accessible to learners six and older. It teaches early physics and math concepts, enhances problem solving skills and encourages creative solutions to puzzles. Since there are no correct ways to reach the target and myriad possibilities, the replay value on this game is also very high. Why not try something new each time? While it doesn’t introduce as many specific physics concepts as Crayon Physics Deluxe, as part of the overall Osmo package, this is a terrific addition.
I was incredibly excited to see the initial information on Masterpiece. I love to doodle and draw, and sometimes my pictures come out decent, and sometimes they are absolutely terrible. I’ve always wanted to effortlessly draw a perfect picture. Masterpiece allows me to give that a try.
Masterpiece is the newest app released that works with the Osmo system. This is a unique app that fits in perfectly with the previous games because it encourages an entirely new area of learning. If the name of the app wasn’t enough of a clue, the app focuses on artistic learning. With Masterpiece, you can use an image on the iPad and transpose it directly onto a piece of paper. You can create your own special art pieces. Masterpiece comes with a full set of pre-drawn images like a coloring book, but you can also take photos of anything you want and put them on the screen. Once the image is in Masterpiece, you get a marker (Markers are easier to see to start. As you get better, you can use other tools) and some paper and start tracing the lines you see on the iPad onto the paper. This is a little tricky. You are tempted to look down at the paper as you go, but you need to keep your eyes on the iPad. The first couple of tries will come out shaky, but you will get better. We’ve created some amazing drawings after about 15 minutes of practice. Keep in mind that images you take on your own must be of the right quality to translate into the app. Images come out better if the lighting is correct and they are taken on a plain background. My son insisted we take a picture of his stuffed monkey, and it only worked when we laid it down on a plain white towel to take the picture. There are features within the app that allow you to adjust the number of lines and the details in your image. You can change the size of your image and its position as well. This game really encourages your child to work on their fine motor skills and is not as intuitive or simple to play as the other games in the Osmo system. However, it is a great way for you or your child to create something truly unique and all their own.
There are other drag and drop iPad apps that do similar things and teach similar concepts as some of these Osmo games. But, the biggest draw to this package is the tangible, physical pieces and real life interaction that this set brings to the table. At an MSRP of $79.99, the four games, the Osmo Base, and the Reflector are an exceptional value. Your family will get plenty of playtime out of this set, and the price point is only slightly higher than a single traditional console game. Osmo would be a great system to introduce to classrooms, libraries, homeschool settings, and childcare settings.
A review copy of this product was provided by Tangible Play, Inc.