Magic and limitations of creative learning apps – the case of Osmo
Osmo by tangible play is an impressive “product system”: through a camera mirror and a plastic stand, it allows to interact with physical elements; it comes with 5 different apps to train drawing skills, words, numbers, tangram plus a creative game, and three boxes with tangible letters, numbers and tangram elements. The whole beautifully presented in a set of boxes that magically “stick” together thanks to magnetization.
So what’s my experience as motivated, yet critical user?
My two elder sons (8 and 5) were immediately attracted and seduced by the kit. The first things were tried were “Words” and “Tangram” games: no instructions needed, they immediately understood the mechanics of the games.
In both cases, the user interaction between the tangible pieces and the screen is impressive: letters or tangram pieces situated in front of the screen are instantly recognized by the camera mirror and put into their place on the screen.
The same was true for “Numbers”, which became the real hit with my sons when the additional kit arrived. They clearly like playing with numbers, and the interaction is very playful. However, the level of challenge seems to be a bit limited for my 8-year old, so I hope there might be different levels that you can select right away.
What makes these exercises sticky with the kids is that they require minimum effort, you just have to literally throw the letters or numbers under your screen, you can mess around and it will still work (perfect for my kids who like to be spontaneous… ;-) ).
This changed when we tried “Masterpiece”. This type of exercise proved hard for my 5-year old: disconnecting the look from where you lead your hand is not an easy task. However, the elder managed indeed to draw a decent space rocket.
But to my disappointment, this more creative drawing exercise didn’t keep him hooked, either, and he would always ask for the other games when I take it out of the cupboard which are simply more tempting and require less effort. I guess what’s missing is similarly playful way to engage with drawing than in the other areas.
So overall, for my family, the app scores high when it comes to a playful way to consolidate early maths abilities or word spelling, and a bit lower when it comes to stimulating genuine creative skills, where I feel the app is not yet exploiting its full potential.
Another aspect is price: while both the physical and UX aspects of the product are indeed of high quality, paying 100 euros for kit seems excessive – if it wasn’t for my professional interest in the topic, I don’t think I’d have considered it for more than 30-40 euros or so, given the competition of playful apps that just cost a few bucks…