Osmo offers a delightful mix of iPad and real-world learning through play

This education system uses 'Reflective Artificial Intelligence' to bring together an iPad app and physical blocks and cards.

A new gaming startup aims to turn the iPad into a more social, 3D educational gaming environment for kids. And its Reflective Artificial Intelligence technology looks like a lot of fun.

Tangible Play, founded by ex Googlers, is launching its inaugural product, Osmo in a crowdfunding campaign.

Osmo aims to “unleash the boundaries of the screen” and expands the playing field onto any surface in front of the connected tablet by turning any real world objects – pen, paper, clay, blocks, etc – into a digitally connected game piece that can interact with the digital device.

Osmo comes with three interactive games built from the ground up called Newton, Tangram and Words. All use Osmo's Reflective AI and encourages creative thinking and social interaction.

Osmo consists of a reflective camera, game pieces for certain titles and apps that, once downloaded, bring an iPad into the game.

It expands games beyond the screen, transforming the physical space in front of the tablet into an interactive environment that turns any object into a digitally connected game piece.

The team behind Osmo, Pramod Sharma and Jerome Scholler, are young parents out of Stanford and Google, who invented Reflective Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology after working in Google’s book-scanning projects.

Osmo brings back the essence of play and encourages core life skills; creative thinking and social interaction by creating an open environment for kids to problem solve, gain positive feedback and interact with one another.

It takes the iPad from being a primarily solo device to more of a social one, and replaces standard 2D play into a real-life 3D environment.

Osmo can be played by the whole family, anywhere, and on any surface – with no need for wi-fi or a battery.  It is compatible with all iPads with a front-facing camera, so all models from the iPad 2 up.

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The design is very minimal, and complements the iPad very well. Indeed Tangible Play likes to think of the device as a mixture of Apple (for cool design) and Pixar (for fun).

Osmo launches with three games, designed for children aged 6-12. All gel well with the hands-on educational philosophy of Montessori schools.

Newton (right) is a groundbreaking game that uses any physical object to guide on-screen bouncing balls to hit targets and even play music. It really is limited only by the players’ imaginations.

Tangram (right) uses timeless tangram wooden pieces that have challenged the minds of millions over centuries. The game challenges, interacts and rewards as players explore and experiment with different spatial arrangements using dexterity and creative thinking to solve the puzzles.

As players create the patterns the game lights up and reveals a map of even more challenging puzzles.

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Words (right) is a fun multiplayer game that helps kids learn to spell and increase their vocabulary. Players have to quickly guess the word by tossing letter tiles in front of Osmo.

Carefully crafted competitive and cooperative modes gets people interacting, bonding, and strategising together.

“As people are flocking to virtual reality, we’re pioneering actual reality - unleashing experiences that go beyond digital screens,” says Pramod Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Osmo.

Pilots of the Osmo are being piloted in classrooms in public and private elementary schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Osmo officially launches on May 22, 2014, using crowdfunding to raise $50,000 (around £30,000) to help manufacture the product and gather early feedback. The device will sell for US$99 (£58), but presale backers will get discount pricing starting at $49 (£29).

Osmo expects to start shipping its first devices this summer.

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