all ages

Osmo Update Lets Parents Create Word Games For Their Kids

by Jeff Cork on Sep 18, 2014 at 06:26 AM

A few months ago, I wrote about Osmo, an edutainment product designed for kids. After clipping a special cap on the top of an iPad's camera, young players can tackle a variety of word games and other puzzle-oriented challenges. Today, Tangible Play has announced that it's giving parents, teachers, and kids themselves the tools to make their own Words challenges. I got to see it in action, and it has a tremendous amount of potential.

Words is one of the three games that's included with Osmo, which has now started shipping. In it, an image pops up on the iPad's screen, along with a series of blank spaces representing letters in a mystery word. Players slide, drop, or fling the appropriate letter tiles into the camera's view, filling in the word. When it's complete, they win. 

Pramod Sharma, Tangible Play's co-founder and CEO, walked me through a demo of the new MyOsmo creation tools. From what I saw, adding additional challenges through an app is an intuitive and simple process. First, creators snap a photo of the object in question – in this case, Sharma grabbed a picture of me from our Google Hangout. After cropping it, he then added a list of words that could be associated with my mug, assigning various difficulty levels to each one. For example, "Jeff" could be used as an easy word, while words like "press" or "GI" could be used to ramp up the challenge.

Groups of images and associated words are then arranged into albums, which are uploaded to Osmo's servers. Players can then choose to share them with other users, though they're made private by default. Sharma says that shared albums will have to be approved before they go live, a process that should take about an hour. As of now, Sharma says there isn't a hard limit on how many images and words can be used in an album. MyOsmo has 15 premade Words albums for download that should get players started, too.

Sharma says that teachers have been using the creation tools to help students learn foreign languages and common-core vocabulary lessons. Or, teachers can use them to help learn their classmates' names as the school year begins. Parents can tailor puzzles to whatever their kids are working on at a given time, too. As a parent of two elementary-school students, I can see how this kind of approach could be more appealing and fun than working off flash cards or eighth-generation photocopies. Or, as Sharma detailed, you could just use it for fun. He told of one of Tangible Play's devs who incorporated old photos of her family at her father's birthday celebration, creating word puzzles based on in-jokes and family lore. It might not be strictly educational, but there's plenty of potential for more creative uses.

While myWords is the first instance of Tangible Play passing along creation tools to the end users, it's not likely to be the last. Sharma says that there's no reason why kids couldn't take the editors the team used in the Newton game to design puzzles of their own. He wouldn't provide a further timeline, but that such tools should be available in the near future.

In the meantime, MyOsmo and myWords are live now.