A technology start-up called Tangible Play, founded by veterans of Google and LucasArts, have started a crowd funding campaign for a new game that seeks to reinvent the idea of gaming on tablets such as the iPad. This new game is called Osmo, and the premise behind it is to move away from simply tapping icons or tilting a tablet, and instead manipulating objects in real life in order to accomplish set tasks. This game, which is aimed at children from the ages of six to nine, plans to make use of an iPad dock, a reflector that attaches over the front facing camera, and a number of physical pieces associated with specific games, in order to engage in social-emotional education.
Social-emotional education is a growing idea among education professionals, which is based on the concept that emotional management skills lead to improved academic performance. While Pramod Sharma, one of Tangible Play’s co-founders and a former employee of Google, says that this was not the idea for which Osmo was originally intended, Tangible Play has quickly embraced the educational possibilities of Osmo, and it is now being tested in more than 100 schools. Many apps for the iPad have educational possibility, however, and it is not in this area that this new game seeks to reinvent the tablet gaming industry.
Osmo has been described by certain analysts as the opposite of augmented reality, as the idea is to merely reflect real world interactions on the screen of the iPad. Tangible Play has so far developed three games, Tangram, Words, and Newton, although only Tangram and Words require specific physical objects, with Newton only requiring pens and paper. The basic premise of Tangram is for kids to use seven different puzzle pieces to create shapes, such as animals, which will then be recognized by the camera in the iPad. Words, on the other hand, displays an image on the screen and then asks the player to put forward the letters (included in the game) which correspond to the image. Finally, Newton asks the player to draw shapes on a piece of paper, which are then captured by the iPad and displayed on screen, where they are used to guide balls through a predetermined course.
All of the above games rely on the equipment provided by Tangible Play, as the reflector over the camera is what allows the iPad to view and record the table on which it is supported, turning any surface into a play area according to Pramod Sharma. Unfortunately for Tangible Play, the fact that this new iPad game seeks to reinvent tablet gaming through the use of hardware means that Osmo will require more capital to develop than the average tablet game. This means that Tangible Play has had to rely on pre-orders at the price of $49 per unit, until the point where the developers reach their goal of $50 000 in capital. At that point Osmo will go on sale for $99 per unit, with shipping expected to start in the summer. The revolutionary nature of Osmo can be seen from the fact that they have already sold many units at a price many times higher than the 99 cent price of most apps, meaning that this new iPad game is well on its way to reinventing the industry of tablet gaming.
By Nicholas Grabe