Osmo: Playing Outside the Screen

The way that we experience the world is rapidly changing. Technology is bridging the gap between the physical world and the digital world. This is the future world that we need to prepare our students for. This is a future world that we need to prepare ourselves for! Wearable tech, augmented reality, and the “Internet of Things” are at the forefront of bridging that gap, and they will surely augment everything we do.
The Kinect and Wii were the first gaming systems to blend the physical and digital worlds. This technology has now gone from the rather expensive console setup to much less expensive mobile devices. Check out the newest kid on the block, Osmo.
Osmo is a great way for young minds to see that bridge between the digital and physical worlds. It is a brilliant optical device that has advanced AI programming under the hood. The device attaches to the iPad (iPad 2 and newer) and allows users to “play outside the screen.” Not only can users “see” the blended physical and digital worlds, they also begin to understand that connection.
Let’s begin with Osmo’s introductory video: 

Now let’s break it down . . . . 

The Hardware 

The Osmo box set includes the following: 

  • Reflective mirror for the iPad’s camera
  • iPad stand
  • Two alphabet letter tile sets
  • Seven wood shapes
  • Three free apps in the iTunes store 

Play Osmo Pic 1
Simply attach the reflective mirror to the iPad’s front-facing camera and open any of the three Osmo game apps to begin play. 
The mirror directs the camera 90 degrees downward, and the high-tech optical reflective artificial intelligence program turns the area in front of the iPad into a digital playground. Physical World, please meet your Digital World doppelganger.
You can use the included game pieces for play, but you can also use other real-world objects for game play. You can basically use anything that the camera can see like Lego pieces, puzzle pieces, cut outs, sketches, handmade objects, etc. 

The Apps 

Osmo has three apps to choose from:

  • Tangible Play Newton
  • Tangible Play Tangram
  • Tangible Play Words 

All are free in iTunes. Let’s take a quick look at each. 


Osmo’s description: “Use your creative noggin and inventive objects like a hand‑drawn basket, grandma’s glasses, dad’s keys, or anything around you to guide falling on‑screen balls into targeted zones.” 
Newton is similar to the popular iPad game Enigmo, except you use real-world objects to guide the falling objects on the screen. Ingenious! 


Osmo’s description: “Arrange tangible puzzle pieces into matching on‑screen shapes. Play with a friend or challenge yourself to more advanced levels as your handy‑work lights up with each victory.” 
Tangram uses Osmo’s spatial intelligence programming in this game where kids match the diagram on the screen with the wooden shapes that are provided in the game box.  Osmo signals game players when the blocks are in the correct position by coloring the block outline on the screen. 


Osmo’s description: “Be the first to guess and spell out the on‑screen hidden word by tossing down real‑life letters faster than your friends. A related picture gives the clue.” 
The AI programming is really impressive in Words. Game players must use the word tiles to spell the various images that they seen on the Osmo screen.  The AI programming will instantly recognize the words that the users create. Gamers can compete against either other or play cooperatively. 

Education Implications 

Wearable technology, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things are completely changing the way that we live in this world. It’s just as important to connect the physical world to the digital world as it is to connect online learning to classroom learning. In the near future, it will likely be hard to tell the difference between online and traditional learning. In fact, we will likely just call it “learning” again. We already know how effective blended learning is. A blended world will be just as beneficial to us, and it’s without a doubt in our future. People who understand that bridge and can operate in not just the physical and digital worlds but in a blended physical-digital world will have a better chance at success in the future.
Apps like Osmo provide that important bridge for young minds to see how the physical world and digital world intersect.
From Osmo:

Each game gives kids an opportunity to learn social skills and practice creative thinking. Osmo’s games fire up multiple intelligences at once–spatial, interpersonal and motor skills; this is a way more nourishing experience than a simple touch-screen experience where you entirely zone in on the game and lose sight of the outside world. Also, kids aren’t hunched over when playing Osmo – it’s less time they spend sitting with bad posture.

Ordering Osmo

The Osmo box set is $79.99, and they are accepting orders right now. 
We have a perk, though! We have an Osmo box set for a giveaway.  Meet these conditions for a chance to win the Osmo box set: 

We will select at random a winner from one of those tweets!

Adam Renfro

Adam was a classroom English teacher for ten years and began teaching online in 1998. He now works for the North Carolina Virtual Public School, the 2nd largest virtual school in the nation. Adam has blogged for Getting Smart since September of 2011.

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