TECH REVIEW: Osmo educational toy interacts with iPad like nothing we’ve seen before

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Osmo Interactive Educational toy for iPad

Osmo Interactive Educational toy for iPad

There are games for the iPad, there are toys that connect to the iPad and then there is Osmo.  It’s something entirely different designed to combine physical learning with digital learning.  I took it for a test drive with my 2 kids.

Hardware

The hardware of the Osmo is simple but brilliant.  There is a stand that holds your full-size iPad or iPad mini at an angle and a red block that you place over the front-facing camera.  Inside the red block is a mirror that reflects the camera down onto the table in front of the iPad.  Simple yet a great idea!  This allows the iPad to watch what is happening on the table top directly in front of it.  This is what makes Osmo work.

Inside the box

Inside the box you’ll find the hardware I mentioned above along with a set of wooden shapes and 2 sets of alphabet tiles.  These objects are used along with the iPad apps to interact with the iPad.

Apps

There are currently 3 apps for Osmo.  One designed to work with the shapes, another for the letters and a third that works with a piece of paper and a marker.

The shape game is simple.  Place the shapes in the same pattern as the on-screen image and Osmo recognizes your progress along the way.  It's impressive how well it works on various tables with good or bad lighting.  My 4-year-old was quickly absorbed into the game.  It's simple to figure out and just works.

The letter game is a basic learning game where pictures with corresponding words will appear on the screen.  You have to fill in the missing letters by placing the letter tiles in front of the iPad.  It immediately recognizes the letters and lets you know if it's the right letter or the wrong letter.  You can play by yourself or with a friend.  It's pretty self explanatory and worked really well in my tests.  My kids figured it out right away and had a blast playing it.

The third game is a bit more complicated.  You place a sheet of blank paper in front of the Osmo.  You use a marker and/or objects to interact with the dropping balls on the screen.  Balls drop from the top of the screen and you have to draw lines or place objects to deflect the balls to hit the targets.  The game gets progressively harder with more targets as you advance levels.  It's fun but not perfect.  This one seems better for the older kids.  You'll also be going through a lot of paper if you play for a while so if you have a wipe board, use that instead.

Conclusion

This is one of the best iPad connected toys.  It's hard to believe a mirror and some cool apps can do so much.  It uses the camera in a unique way and combines physical learning with an iPad app.  The best part is kids don't care that it's on the iPad, it's just fun!

The Osmo starter kit sells for $80 but you can get an extra $15 off if you agree to wait until after the holiday for delivery.  The company is already working on additional apps and I can't wait to see what's next!

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