Interview

Tangible Play crowdfunds innovative vision-based education game Osmo for awareness, not cash

Tangible Play crowdfunds innovative vision-based education game Osmo for awareness, not cash

It seems the things you can do with an iPad are endless.

The latest reconfiguring of Apple's iconic touchscreen device comes courtesy of Bay Area startup Tangible Play.

And surprisingly it's ignoring the touchscreen to focus on computer vision as a control method.

Out of the box

The focus of this move is kids education product Osmo.

It's a suite of three games combined with a simple iPad stand and mirror unit which enables kids to interact with software by using physical objects, ranging from letter tiles to coloured shapes or drawing lines on paper.

Osmo will ship with three games including Words

"We think screens are resulting in kids being disconnected from the real world," says Tangible Play's CEO Pramod Sharma.

"The technology isn't doing the right job. We're going to change that."

Freedom to learn

The foundation of the product is what Sharma calls Tangible Play's reflective AI; basically a type of computer vision that allows kids to interact with the games in an unstructured manner such as tossing word tiles in front of the camera in any orientation. .

"This is the power of Osmo," Sharma says. "We're enabling freedom not constraint."

Still, kids education games weren't the initial focus of Tangible Play's efforts and the three games Osmo launches with have been concentrated down from 12 prototypes.

Over the past months, Osmo has been tested in over 100 schools in the Bay Area.

"These three ranked best in terms of user engagement," Sharma explains.

This metric is particularly important as Osmo isn't about direct learning in terms of spelling or pattern recognition. Instead the open interactions enabled by the camera means kids can collaborate in completing tasks as well as having the option to compete.

For example, the word game comes with a set of red and blue letter tiles for team-based play.

"All the games are social and are great in terms of improving life skills such as social intelligence," Sharma says.

Start a movement

As for the messy process of actually launching a new product, Tangible Play is taking a well-worn path by launching a crowdfunding appeal.

We're enabling freedom not constraint.
Pramod Sharma

While the $50,000 it expects to raise will fund the initial manufacturing batch, Sharma is much more interested in raising awareness and building a buzz around the product, which will retail for $99. Supporters will get it for $49.

"Crowdfunding is about the movement," he says.

"I'm not after customers at the moment. Our biggest challenge is to ensure people understand what we're doing.

"We have a great product and we want to get people excited about it."

You can find out more about Osmo at www.playosmo.com

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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