Learning to code is increasingly thought of as a valuable life skill by educators and parents. In the United Kingdom, the government recently implemented programming in its computing curriculum, and many companies followed the trend and came up with toys and games to teach youngsters how to code. That push includes the tech start-up Osmo Coding, which has launched an iPad game that teaches children to code by playing with physical blocks.
Osmo Coding can be viewed as a toys-to-life version of LEGO Mindstorms without the robotic component and the small figurines, writes JC Torres of the Slash Gear. Osmo Coding provides for basic building blocks that can be combined in many different ways to create diverse effects. Similar to the toys-to-life products, the physical parts of Osmo include a digital character, called Awbie, inside the iPad game.
Osmo's reflective mirror must be attached to an iPad, with users choosing an app that taps into Osmo's artificial intelligence technology. The app uses computer vision to analyze the scene and visualize the blocks that users place in front of it. Therefore, the blocks work as commands for a computer program.
The digital Awbie game is appropriate for kids aged 5-12, notes Dean Takahashi of the Venture Beat. Awbie loves strawberries, and the primary goal of the game is to make Awbie eat all of them while finding its way between trees, bushes, and lakes. Each of the blocks actually represents a given command, such as "going up", "going down", or an action such as "jump" or "grab". The child is supposed to come up with a series of commands in a way that instructs Awbie to either eat strawberries in a row or find the final destination faster. The children that are more familiar with computer games may use modifier blocks such as "loop" or different "if-then" commands.
Osmo is not new in the education games business in Palo Alto. The company's past products include Words, a game with letter pieces to help teach kids to read, and Tangram, a popular game with geometric objects that help children solve math problems.
Osmo CEO and co-founder Pramod Sharma commented:
"Lego inspired an entire generation of engineers. We want to try to be the same thing for the next generation of coders."
In the future, Osmo Coding plans to expand the game by adding new blocks that represent new commands. Since the "blocks" themselves are physical tokens which an iPad's camera transforms into code, new functionalities can be added over time. It would expand the library of blocks so that youngsters could constantly be to able to do new things, writes John Brownlee of the Fast Codesign.
The stand-alone Osmo Coding base is already available from Amazon, Apple, and PlayOsmo.com for $49, but that is assuming users already have the iPad stand and mirror. Osmo's Coding Kit, which has both the base and the Coding blocks, for is available for $75, writes Nicole Lee of the Edgadget.