There are countless options of apps available for children to keep them entertained for hours. However, many of those titles provide a passive experience, like watching videos that make parents set iPad screen time limits for their kids to prevent them from becoming zombies.
However, a team of six ex-Googlers and a former Disney designer have developed a new mixed-reality storytelling app that provides a more interactive gaming experience while encouraging kids’ creativity.
Called Osmo Monster, the augmented reality game taps into children’s imaginations to bring physical things that they draw to life. This allows them to channel their inner Walt Disney and create their own animations and see them become animated in real-time.
While at its core, the animation game for iPad is powered by children’s imaginations, it actually works by using Osmo’s system and AI technology.
Osmo is a system that includes a base for the iPad and a mirror that goes over the tablet’s camera to have it looking down to capture what the child is doing in the space in front of them, so that the screen is just part of the experience. This enables its apps to become hands-on and interactive.
The company has already launched six games, all with the same idea of bringing physicality to gaming to make learning and creating fun, such as its Coding app, the puzzle app Tangram and engineering app Newton.
“Parents really want children to be active participants,” CEO and co-founder of Osmo Pramod Sharma (who spent eight years at Google) told Tech Times. “What we have seen is that if you can turn iPad time into active play, that is very powerful because that means kids are growing and kids are learning.”
Consumers first need to have the Osmo Wonder Kit that retails for $145, but it includes all the hardware and access to its preexisting apps. Launched today is the new Creative Set that comes with the creative board (essentially a high-end white board) for drawing, six Yoobi colorful chalk markers and a fuzzy storage pouch that doubles as the eraser — everything the child needs to create. Users will also have access to the Newton and Masterpiece apps to get introduced to the drawing skill set on the platform, all for $49.99.
Monster uses the the mirror cover hardware to be able to capture everything the child draws, as the tech analyzes every step in real-time and then extract this data into the Osmo world.
Sharma revealed that the team has spent three years developing this AI technology to be able to successful capture what is seen in real-time and properly blend it into the digital world.
Once the app is opened, the child is introduced to the friendly character Mo the Monster, who will ask them to draw various things on the board to help him in his magic show, with all the elements in the show being created by the user. Mo talks directly to child as if they are hanging out while co-creating, and is not judgmental, nor rushes the child when drawing so that they can feel confident in their creations.
The child might be asked to draw an object like a magic wand or pillow, while at other times, it’s something more lifelike, like a friend. While the game features a magic show every time, the questions Mo asks will always be different.
“You have this combination of character storytelling, animation, drawing — so a lot of things are coming together,” Sharma said. “We want kids to experience this process of making things, having a thought, putting it down, and seeing it become part of a story. I think that the idea of you are the driver of the story and seeing what you create on the screen provides that basic concept storytelling.”
Once the child physically draws what is asked of them, the object will appear on the screen fully animated, giving them that Walt Disney magic moment.
(Photo : Osmo)
“With the launch of Monster, we were thinking about how do we get the future Walt Disneys,” said Sharma. “If Walt Disney was a five-year-old today, we think he would create his first cartoon with Osmo Monster. Creativity is critical to early learning and development, as is building motor skills through drawing. We believe that technology shouldn’t just be for math and science kids, it can inspire and empower creative children as well.”
Each magic show is recorded and can be accessed in the gallery so that the child can view what they created again and share it with their family. “For a kid to create and have a movie about it is very magical,” Sharma said.
The target age range for Monster is between ages four to nine. The app is free and will feature two more shows as part of an update this fall. However, in order to play, kids will need the hardware available in the kit and new Creative Set, which is available starting today.
“We want kids to feel empowered … and we use the screen to empower children so that they aren’t just a consumer or technology, but they are also a maker of technology,” Sharma added.
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