iPad Add-On Marries Physical & Virtual Gameplay


A California firm hopes to launch an iPad add-on tool to let children combine the on-screen tech with physical toys. It works in a similar fashion to the Eye Toy range on the Playstation.

Osmo is made up of a dock to hold the iPad vertically upright and a clip-on mirror that effectively points the iPad camera’s view downwards, a bit like a periscope. The system can then work with specially designed physical games through a sort of reverse augmented reality in which real world objects movements are overlaid on the game display.

The device will ship with pieces for three games:

  • Tangram is simply a collection of geometric shapes which you have to arrange into patterns to match what is on screen. The on-screen pieces light up when you’ve got them in the correct place.
  • Newton involves balls falling on screen. You have to block and guide the screens either by drawing barriers on paper, or arranging physical objects in front of the iPad, in both cases creating virtual barriers on screen.
  • Words is a simple word guessing game, but instead of typing or speaking your answer, you have to throw down tiles in front of the camera (there’s no need to land them in a particular position or order.) The set-up means multiple players can compete in a race to throw down tiles.

BusinessWeek reports a special education director as saying children not only pick up the games quickly, but seem to show an unusual willingness to persevere and improve at the games.

The idea is to not only develop new games, but to encourage independent developers to follow suit. At the moment the target audience is children aged 6 to 9, though it’s possible developers could use the technology for games for older players.

Osmo’s developers are looking for crowdfunding to launch the device. They are charging backers $49 to effectively pre-order the device and the equipment for the three games. The plan is to charge $99 for that bundle if and when it goes on sale.

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