Osmo Is a Tangible, ‘Actual Reality’ Gaming System For iPad

Osmo uses Reflective Artificial Intelligence to combine old school education with new school technology. With four digital games that need physical interaction using tools like letter tiles, pencils, and puzzle pieces, your child with truly be able to wrap their hands around what they are learning.

Problem solving, spelling, and team work are not so old school that they are out of date, but in our world of touch screens, virtual reality, and super computers our kids don’t always take advantage of the benefits of learning by doing—using actual building blocks instead of computer generated ones. And sometimes we outsmart ourselves and forget that social skills and the ability to cooperate while solving problems are skills that need to be practiced through interaction with other humans.

Osmo Gaming System, available only as an iPad add-on, has four unique games that will allow kids 6-12 the chance to get back to learning through physical play and social collaboration. Don’t let the age guidelines limit you, though. Osmo can be played by older kids and adults too.

Osmo was invented by two fathers—two Stanford engineers and ex-Google fathers—who want to find new ways to use technology while nurturing positive play for our children. Time Magazine named Osmo one of the Best Inventions of 2014, so I think they are onto something.

Osmo comes with four games: Tangram, Words, Newton Games, and Masterpiece; access to their respective apps is included too. It also comes with a stand for your iPad and a cover with a mirror which hangs over the front-facing camera on your iPad, AKA Reflective Artificial Intelligence. The mirror reflects the objects in front of the iPad back to the game’s app. Once you launch the apps, you are ready to go.


Tangram uses seven wooden puzzle pieces and the app’s on-screen puzzle outline. The puzzle on the screen needs to be copied by placing the puzzle pieces in the right configuration in front of the iPad. When a correct piece is matched the puzzle piece on the screen lights up. The game challenges your child’s dexterity, spatial awareness, and problem solving abilities. And since there are over 2,000 puzzle combinations at varying degrees of difficulty, team work with a friend may be needed and adds to the fun.


Words comes with red and blue alphabet tiles and can be played collaboratively or competitively. When a picture on the screen pops up, children place the tiles in front of the iPad to spell the word that describes the picture. What is crazy is that the app not only recognizes the correct letters, but recognizes which color is placed down first, making the game a fast-paced spelling bee when players go head to head. The reflected camera also allows the Words app to recognize when an incorrect letter is placed. After so many errors, the app will automatically decrease the level of difficulty.


Newton involves a piece of white paper and anything your imagination can think of. By drawing or placing objects on the paper, your child creates obstacles or a maze to guide on-screen balls into targeted areas. Newton’s 60 levels foster quick thinking and creative problem solving. And a lot of laughs, especially when anything from a fork to a toy lion can redirect the falling balls.


Masterpiece reminds me of those coveted coloring books of my childhood with the tracing paper between the pages. Launch the app, choose an image—one you took or one from the app’s gallery—and use the mirrored cover to watch your hand trace lines the Masterpiece generated outline of your picture. Your child’s masterpiece can then be shared with family and friends as a time-lapsed video of their work.

I am all for technology and I know it will be a big part of my children’s education. But I want their learning to be a balance of electronics and colored pencils and paper. I want them to create while they learn so that they have the skills to invent the next new technology. Osmo is that perfect balance. Co-founder Pramod Sharma said it best, “Instead of a virtual reality game, we wanted to build an ‘actual reality’ game.”

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