Osmo iPad peripheral makes augmented reality fun again (Wired UK)


Osmo uses visual processing technology to put tabletop games on the small screen

Tangible Play


Whether it’s Halo, Wipeout or Wii
Sports
each new video-game platform needs a system seller at
launch. Osmo is a new
iPad peripheral with three games that sells its premise in
seconds.

Having seen the pristine marketing videos effortlessly introduce
young children to its charms, I was keen to test it out in a real
family environment where soft furnishings aren’t camera friendly
and children squabble as much as co-operate.

I handed the box to my six year old and asked him to set it up.
Within a few minutes he had placed the iPad in the Osmo stand,
positioned the red lozenge reflector over the camera and started
the Tangram app.

Osmo games are played in the space in front of your iPad using
an angled mirror that enables the tablet to see the table. Each
game then uses different play pieces to enable players to interact
in a freeform style.

There are similarities to Kinect here, but without the
reliability disparity between the large whitewashed rooms of
marketing videos and our home setting. The Osmo experience was much
closer to the advertisements. This is important for families
because if it doesn’t work most of the time kids soon lose interest
— and parents get frustrated.

Osmo iPad Games Family TestedFamilyGamerTV

Osmo initially offers three different games, Words,
Tangram and Newton. My family gravitated towards
Words. Here you are given a set of letter tiles and tasked
with using them to complete a particular word that relates to the
on-screen image a little like hang-man. At first there is a novelty
of how instantly the iPad sees the letters you place, but that soon
fades away leaving a remarkably compelling and simple experience
much like a board game.

In two player mode this really comes alive. Each team has
different coloured letters and must get them in front of the iPad
first to win points. However, be too eager with your selection and
you lose a point for each letter you submit that’s not in the
target word — perfect risk reward.

The mechanics and reliability of Osmo mean you focus as much on racing to get your tiles in quickly,
talking to team mates and distracting other players as staring at
the screen. My kids came up with all sorts of techniques to win,
from flicking tiles to carefully pre-arranging vowels and
consonants to give them the edge. My son would stock-pile his tiles
when he had the answer and then place them all together to stop
anyone else getting an advantage from his guesses.

It wasn’t until we played in the evening, once the kids had gone
to bed that I noticed how good Osmo was at adjusting the difficulty
for those playing. As my wife and I guessed words quicker the level
of difficulty got harder. This took the simple picture matching
challenge the kids enjoyed and turned it into something more like
WarioWare where you had to stretch your brain to make the
connection between what you were seeing and the hang-man
phrases.

The other games on offer, Tangram and Newton,
do skew towards a younger audience and also seem well suited for
use in educational settings. Newton combines drawing lines and
shapes on paper in front of the iPad to direct falling balls
towards a target. This not only tests problem solving but lateral
thinking as well. Along with drawing, players can also place
physical objects in front of the iPad to complete levels. All three
games feel roundly beneficial. The Words game is the first
time I have had to persuade my kids to stop doing spelling work and
go to bed.

Looking for negatives here is difficult. I would like the base
to store the tiles and pens when not in use. I’d also like more
options to set difficulty levels. These are really minor points
though that I’m sure will be addressed in the final retail
version.

Osmo has been a revolution in our family. The kids love it –
that much I could have predicted. More surprising though is the
dinner party angle. It’s here, rather than the child-centric fun,
that we found Osmo’s killer feature. Like playing Wii Sports in
wide family groups, everyone leaves wanting to get one of their
own.

Currently you can pre-order an iPad Osmo Starter Pack for $75
(£44) including shipping to the UK. With limited availability it
may be best to get in early.

Andy Robertson is a freelance games expert for the BBC and
runs Family
Gamer TV
.

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Source: wired.co.uk
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