While many ideas exist about how to use technology in education, most involve students looking at screens and either typing or tapping on a touchscreen. A company founded by two former Google engineers has come up with a novel twist on this idea: allowing a child to play iPad-based games by moving blocks around a table or drawing on a piece of paper.
Osmo, made by a Palo Alto (Calif.) startup called Tangible Play, consists of an iPad dock, a reflector that fits over the device’s camera, and three games that come in boxes with actual physical pieces. With the help of the reflector, the iPad watches what is happening in front of it so that kids can, say, build a puzzle with blocks based on a guide shown on the screen. Each time a new piece is put in the right place, the iPad lights up. There is also a game for spelling and another involving drawing. The target market is children ages 6 to 9.