A new world for iPads and iPhones opens up when you attach certain things to them: cases that make them environment-proof, or the olloclip lenses that attach to iPhones and give you telephoto, wide-angle and other extras for your iPhotography.
A new entry in the kids’ field uses an ingenious system of a clip-on mirror to direct an iPad’s front camera onto a table or desktop, and apps that respond to what the camera then sees in ingenious ways. The kit includes the base, which the mirror part fits into when not on the iPad, and some letter and tangram tiles.
With the iPad in the base and the mirror clipped on, you’re all set up. From here on, it depends what app you boot up, but first, go into Settings and Allow the Osmo apps to use the iPad camera.
The Tangram is probably the most immediately appealing to little kids, with its brightly-coloured pieces. The Tangram app has three settings: easy, medium and hard. On easy, the iPad shows a pattern and you replicate it on the area in front of the iPad. If your positioning is not working for the camera, little messages pop up: move the pieces up, right etc. When you have a piece in the correct position, it throbs on the screen. The harder settings show the pieces in black, for advanced shape recognition. It’s harder than it sounds, with more complex patterns, but you can tap the screen toget hints.
Occupation — This should keep kids occupied for quite some time, and can be used to teach colours, shape recognition, hand-eye coordination etcetera. As you progress the challenges increase.
Words has three game options: I Spy, Junior and Custom. In I Spy, an image fills the iPad screen and you assemble the letters in front of it to spell the word. If you’re too slow, the blank round letter spaces fill up by themselves – the faster you spell, the better you score. Games can be done and redone to improve your scores. Also, you can play by yourself or against another, taking turns to spell words faster. Under Custom, you can load additional image sets: Guessing and Spelling in English, Classique and Junior in French, in German there’s Klassisch and Kinder and, in Italian, Classico and Bambini.
Newton is really ingenious – boot that app, place a piece of white paper on the surface in front of the iPad, under it’s outwards-shining mirror. When you initiate the game, little discs emanate from the top centre of the iPad screen and you draw lines on the paper that the balls then bounce off – the idea is to bounces them into targets and when you hit them enough, they disappear until you have destroyed each on in turn. This is infectious fun and, frankly, ingenious.
Masterpiece aims to teach drawing, shape-recognition and more. It shows an image on screen and you ‘trace’ it on a piece of paper in front of the iPad. This is an interesting idea (left), but it’s quite hard to do so without obscuring the camera’s view of what you’re doing, since you have to angle the pen or pencil from the bottom upwards to even see what you’re doing. I’m not sure how this could have been done better, and it’s probably more effective if you use a crayon or felt tip.
Conclusion — The reason I find this particularly interesting, apart from the ingenuity of how everything works, is that it presages other potential uses in industry, arts and graphics etcetera. I expect Osmo – or somebody – can create some pretty interesting apps for more adult uses along these lines.
What’s Great — Beautifully designed (as is the helpful Oslo site), ingenious, intriguing.
What’s Not — It’s not that easy to draw so the camera/mirror still ‘sees’ what you’re doing, since you also need to see what you are doing.
Needs — Kids, iPads, educational inspiration.
Osmo ‘Play beyond the screen’, RRP NZ$129
System — iPads running iOS 8 or later (you’ll need to take any cover off to get it into the Oslo base).
Further information — Osmo. Available in New Zealand shops soon, and already in the NZ Apple Store online.