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Osmo engages kids with real game pieces and iPad magic

Susie Ochs | May 23, 2014
News flash: Kids love the iPad. And parents are generally OK with that--it's beyond helpful to be able to hand a child one long-lasting device that lets her read, play games, watch videos, or even make her own videos and artwork. But parents also know the zombie-like trance that too much iPad can cause, your kid's head craned downward for hours as he taps and swipes and pretends not to hear when you ask him something. And most iPad apps are best for one person, which stinks if you have more than one kid.

Why it stands out

Clearly a ton of thought has gone into making the Osmo set. Osmo's CEO and cofounder, Pramod Sharma, told me the set has been play tested at more than 100 schools around the Bay Area, and he says teachers love how naturally social it is, while encouraging creative thinking. Parents will be pleased to hear that the sounds the games make aren't at all grating — Sharma was relieved when I complimented the cool sound effects, explaining that the team had iterated on them quite a bit to avoid the awfulness of most sound-producing kids' toys.

Even the packaging is cleverly designed. The game pieces come in boxes with little cubbies to keep things organized and make it obvious if a piece is missing, and even the boxes themselves snap together neatly with magnets. I also love how the Osmo stand and the piece that goes over the camera are totally analog: no power or charging needed, no Wi-Fi.

None of the games have instructions, yet it's easy to figure out how to interact with them, and then as you're interacting, your brain keeps thinking of new things to try. Since it's such a different way of using the iPad, you're not looking for familiar tropes like onscreen buttons or gestures. You'll try anything, and a lot of it will work. It's delightful.

Osmo officially launched on Thursday. You can preorder the entire set for $49, while the final price is expected to be $99 when it ships this summer. We look forward to putting it in the hands of our favorite elementary-age kids to find out if they think Osmo is awesome, or no.


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