Playing with a tablet doesn't have to be just using a touchscreen. A new accessory for the iPad will encourage kids to play in real life again. Osmo uses your iPad's camera to turn the surface in front of your tablet into a play area that feeds information back to your device in a sort of reverse augmented reality. It will retail for $99, but the company is offering a 50 percent discount for four weeks for its crowdfunding backers.
Although Osmo's target audience is elementary schoolchildren, us adults had plenty of fun playing with it during our hands-on preview. A simple stand for the iPad with a red camera attachment makes Osmo's setup is pretty basic. The cap reflects images into the iPad's camera, so Osmo's apps can scan anything on the rectangular plane in front of your tablet. It then sends this information back to the apps, letting you interact with items on the screen by adjusting physical objects on the detected surface.
No other setup is required -- you won't have to turn on Bluetooth or Wifi to connect -- the Osmo apps just read information from the camera. Three apps are currently available for the Osmo system -- Newton, Tangram and Words. Each $99 package comes with the basic iPad stand with red cap, as well as a set of blocks and cardboard letters for Tangram and Words.
We thoroughly enjoyed drawing on a piece of paper or using our hands in Newton to guide virtual beads dropping from the top of the iPad's screen into designated areas. In Tangram, we arranged geometric puzzle pieces to form animal shapes as prompted by the app. Words was particularly fun; the Hangman style game challenges you to guess what's in a picture by throwing out letters in front of the tablet.
We liked the musical feedback in each app that lets kids know they're doing well. Osmo is also great for group play, since more than one player can take part. As we battled each other in Words, we were impressed by how the camera not only picked up shapes and letters but colors as well, assigning points to each team based on whether a red or blue cardboard letter was tossed into the pile.
All in, Osmo looks to be a promising gaming accessory that could entertain your family for hours on end.