Byju’s Osmo division is taking mobile innovation to preschoolers with the launch of the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit.

When Indian edtech startup Byju acquired Osmo for $120 million in January, it signaled a shift for Osmo to focus more on education than ever. And that’s reflected in the release of this title, said Pramod Sharma, CEO of Osmo, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The Little Genius kit is a hands-on game where kids can do things like form letters in front of a tablet, which recognizes the letters and triggers fun animations on the screen. You can put pieces together on a mat, and the artificial intelligence works with the iPad’s camera to identify what those things are.

Sharma said that the fundamentals of preschool literacy learning have been the same for nearly 100 years, despite significant research that has furthered our understanding of how children learn, and despite radical technological advancements.

That’s why Palo Alto, California-based Osmo and a French educational studio are bringing seamless digital and physical hands-on play to preschoolers. MIT’s own research indicates that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age five. Osmo created the kit in partnership with Marbotic, a European tech company that creates playful experiences for early learners.

Osmo can recognize letters that children create on a pad.

Above: Osmo Little Genius can recognize letters that children create on a pad.

Image Credit: Osmo

“What we see in the huge opportunity in the market for games are targeted opportunities for learning and education in the U.S. market,” said Sharma. “We have a strong business model that is working well and is enabling us to innovate. That is why we decided to merge with Byju. We have opportunities in India, China, and the U.S.”

The Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit is available on Amazon and playosmo.com for $80.

The new innovation of the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit combines proven hands-on play of Friedrich Froebel’s and Maria Montessori’s manipulatives with advanced computer vision for a personalized and highly engaging experience.

To create this “tangible” learning experience, Osmo used its AI technology and design-based research for the development process. The result is a system best-suited for the 3-5 age group that helps nurture core developmental skills including vocabulary, letters, emotions, problem-solving, and creative confidence.

“The Montessori movement uses the idea of building blocks to learn,” Sharma said. “With preschool, there is a unique challenge because kids don’t have reading skills yet. So we started thinking about holistic learning for younger kids, and we really wanted to go after. And what we have built is this combination of building with your hands and experimenting, and having a character on screen talking to you like a teacher, and then this sort of social interaction. It’s an experience of learning by doing, by seeing, and by hearing. We try to bring all three of them together.”

Research shows that while e-books and online ABC apps can be quite engaging for children, they can sometimes hinder learning. The Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit trie to enable early learning through core, hands-on experiences:

  • Tangible ABC’s – This amounts to playful practice for pre-readers. They can build letters with squishy, colorful sticks, and rings. You put it on a mat and Osmo uses its AI to recognize what is in front of it. It has over 500 vocabulary words.
  • Squiggle Magic – Kids can create anything they want using sticks and rings and they come alive on the screen. Learn vocabulary, build artistic confidence, and develop fine motor skills.
  • Costume Party – Children can experiment with clothes and colors to make party outfits, then watch the characters react.
  • Stories – This part gives children hours of problem-solving fun. They can mix and match costumes to find silly solutions to obstacles and navigate adventures.

    Above: Osmo Little Genius aims to teach preschoolers a lot of skills.

    Image Credit: Osmo

The academic research behind the Osmo Little Genius Learning system debuts at the 2019 ACM Interaction Design and Children conference, presented by Heidy Maldonado, of Osmo.

“We want to bring preschool learning to the 21st century by merging the proven educational benefits of Friedrich Froebel’s and Maria Montessori’s manipulatives with the adaptability and personalization of digital applications,” said Maldonado, in a statement.

Osmo has resonated with kids, parents, and teachers, and it is in more than one million households worldwide.