gaming

Former Googlers Launch Osmo, A Gaming Device That Combines Real-World Play With The iPad by Gavin Lau

osmo

A number of companies have attempted to combine physical objects and the iPad in an effort to create new kinds of children’s games, whether that’s Crayola with their DigiTools coloring pens or games that teach toddlers their shapes, like Tiggly. Today, another digital toymaker, Tangible Play, is entering this space with the launch of a series of high-quality games designed for children ages 6 to 12, including puzzles, word games, and other forms of creative play.

In development for over a year, we first spotted Tangible Play demonstrating its games at a previous TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley.

The company was founded by ex-Googlers, including Pramod Sharma, who had earlier seen the intersection of physical and digital when he helped build Google’s book-scanning machine, and Jérôme Scholler, who had worked on Chrome for Android.

box-3pack-osmoBoth men are also dads, and like most parents, they have mixed feelings about the way today’s tablet computers engage kids’ attention. On the one hand, technologists generally like to see their kids embracing digital tools at young ages.

But, says Sharma, “[my daughter] could literally spend hours just looking at a screen, and doing nothing else. And as a parent, this is obviously concerning,” he says. That led the founders to create Osmo, the company’s first product built to combine social and creative play with the highly engaging tablet their kids were addicted to.

The games center around a technology which they refer to as “Reflective Artificial Intelligence.” What that means is that the Osmo gaming kit includes a uniquely designed reflective camera that snaps onto the top of the iPad, allowing the app to “see” the shapes and objects placed in front of the tablet on the tablet or other flat surface.

The game kit also includes an iPad stand and two physical games, their app counterparts, as well as third app that’s Osmo’s most recent addition.

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While the best way to experience Osmo is to try it for yourself, the general gist of the experience involves playing a game in front of the iPad, following software prompts along the way which guide the gameplay.

In the case of “Words,” children try to quickly guess the word by sliding letter tiles in front of the tablet, while in “Tangram” kids use colorful wooden pieces to try to reproduce the image on the screen by placing shapes together. A third title, “Newton,” lets you engage in more creative play by placing any object in front the iPad – glasses, a pen, your hands, etc. – to turn them into structures inside a game involving bouncing balls and targets.

Though my daughter is only four, and below the target age range for these apps, with some guidance we were able to play some of the Osmo games together. It was easy to see how these games could make the iPad a more social activity - something that’s more like the modern-day equivalent to what was once the family board game night at home.

http://youtu.be/CbwIJMz9PAQ

That being said, the test versions I was able to try (admittedly a few weeks behind the versions of the apps launching today) did have some kinks. I found, for example, that the shapes game “Tangram” would sometimes not see the pieces correctly, lighting up to show a match, then dimming again for no apparent reason, then lighting up again, which was confusing.

The sounds effects and music also need work, as they didn’t seem quite as kid-friendly and engaging as they could be. (They actually sound better in the video above, than in person). But overall, the games work as advertised, provided you have good lighting and a flat surface to play them upon. And Sharma says that now the goal is to make Osmo work on any surface, including floors and tables alike.

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The company has been piloting the games in over one hundred schools, many near their home base of Palo Alto. From these early tests, the founders came to better understand the potential for Osmo from an educator’s perspective, explaining that their group play nature could help with a child’s social and emotional learning, while other games taught different concepts, like spatial intelligence and creative thinking.

Crowdfunding Launch

Today, Tangible Play is launching its crowdfunding campaign which will allow it to assemble a core group of early adopters who the team hopes will help to evangelize the product and help Osmo gain traction. Though the gaming kit will eventually retail for $99, crowdfunding backers will be able to get it for a discount at $49, with some limited availability. The goal is to raise $50,000 to help with start-up and manufacturing costs.

However, the company doesn’t really need the crowdfunding in order to get the device to manufacturing, as they’ve previously raised an undisclosed round of seed funding from K-9 Ventures last year.

You can join the new crowdfunding campaign or learn more here: www.playosmo.com.

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/22/former-googlers-launch-osmo-a-gaming-device-that-combines-real-world-play-with-the-ipad/

Android and iOS users spend 32%... by Gavin Lau

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Android and iOS users in the US spend an average of 2 hours and 42 minutes every day using apps on smartphones and tablets (up just four minutes compared to last year). Of that, 86 percent (or 2 hours and 19 minutes) is spent inside apps, while the remaining 14 percent (or 22 minutes, down 6 percentage points compared to last year) is spent on the mobile Web using a browser. These latest figures come from mobile firm Flurry, which provides analytics and ad tools that developers integrate into their apps. The company collected data between January 2014 and March 2014 and concluded that “apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile” while the browser “has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps.”

Here are the results in graph form:

Just like last year, games took first place with 32 percent of time spent. Social and messaging applications increased their share from 24 percent to 28 percent, entertainment and utility applications maintained their positions at 8 percent each, while productivity apps saw their share double from 2 percent to 4 percent.

It’s worth underlining that Facebook’s share dipped a bit from 18 percent to 17 percent. Nevertheless, Facebook still has the lion’s share of time spent in the US, and was able to maintain its position with the help of Instagram. Flurry argues that position will become even more cemented, if not increased, once the acquisition of WhatsApp closes.

This year, Flurry broke out YouTube separately, which shows us it owns a whopping 50 percent of the entertainment category. We’ll be watching closely to see if it manages to grow its 4 percent share of time spent.

“It is still too early to predict the trajectory apps will take in 2014,” Flurry admits. “But one thing is clear – apps have won and the mobile browser is taking a back seat.” Unless this trend reverses, we can expect many more acquisitions from tech companies the size of Facebook and Google.

 

Source: http://tnw.to/q3Jet

Smart Tennis Sensor by Gavin Lau

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Sony showed off a prototype tennis racket sensor at CES 2014 that promised to track useful data about your technique and transmit it to your smartphone. That prototype has turned into reality faster than we thought it might — the final product now has a name, a price, and a release date for Japan...  

http://vrge.co/1iefefI

iPad-mounted Structure Sensor 3D scanner by Gavin Lau

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Augmented reality has never been nearly as cool as its name suggests. Even when it isn't gimmicky, it's virtually useless, in large part because your mobile camera's version of "reality" is short one dimension. Scanning and computer vision company Occipital, however, wants to add real depth to your tablet's vision with the Structure Sensor, a Kickstarter- backed product that shipped to backers late last year. The $349 Structure Sensor is a Kinect-like camera that fits on the back of an iPad or, with some hacking, any other device. With the bracket on, your tablet doesn't just see objects, it can figure out how far away they are, doing anything from turning an object into a 3D model to measuring the distance of a room. http://vrge.co/1lGoBVh

iPhone-controlled paper airplanes by Gavin Lau

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PowerUp is building a little device that converts paper airplanes into smartphone-controlled flyers. This project has raised nearly $850,000 on Kickstarter, raising 1,688 percent of its $50,000 goal — and it still has 24 days to go.

“Our goal is to make you feel like the Wright Brothers when Flyer I took to the skies,” inventor Shai Gotein told VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi in November. “We want to empower you to design your own flyer and conquer the skies with our module.”

PowerUp’s module has an ultralight weight mini-computer on one side that is about the size of a quarter. Bluetooth low energy connects it to your smartphone, and a lithium battery power pack charges it. A thin carbon-fiber frame connects the computer to a little propeller on the other end.

 

http://venturebeat.com/2013/12/31/powerup-racks-up-850k-on-kickstarter-for-iphone-controlled-paper-airplanes

Game on MOGA! iOS 7 compatible game controller by Gavin Lau

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MOGA have been making gamepad accessories for Android devices for a while. Today, they have announced on their website an adapted version compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. The company is the first to officially announce availability of an accessory that works with iOS 7′s GameController API... Read more at http://9to5mac.com/2013/11/19/game-on-moga-officially-announces-its-ios-7-compatible-game-controller-available-tomorrow/#xgM588WhiLKyRc1v.99