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Tangible Play, the Palo Alto startup behind the augmented reality Osmo game system, has sold its 11 educational games in over 42 countries and more than 30,000 schools. Today, just months after it made its millionth sale on iPad, the company unveiled the newest entrant in the Osmo franchise: Detective Agency

Detective Agency’s technological underpinnings aren’t much different from that of Osmo games before it. The kit ships with a mirror that slots on top of an iPad, Kindle Fire (with Osmo for Amazon Fire), or iPhone (with Osmo iPhone Base) and reflects back interactions with physical game pieces . Thanks to a clever bit of computer vision, those interactions trigger onscreen actions, effects, and playful animations unique to each scene and setting. (Tangible Play calls it “Reflective AI.”)

Detective Agency (which takes a cue or two from Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?) has players step into the role of globe-trotting detectives tasked with investigating mysteries in Paris, New York, Beijing, Sydney, and other famous cities. Using a magnifying glass and physical maps, they discover clues that’ll help to foil a dastardly villain.

Pramod Sharma, Osmo’s CEO and cofounder, said that Detective Agency contains “thousands” of clues and icon landmarks across eight maps. 20 new characters with unique personalities join its colorful existing cast.


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On the parent side of the equation, Detective Agency marks the introduction of a new parent platform that encourages healthy digital habits across Osmo’s experiences. Guide Play Time lets them keep tabs on activity and learning progress. A new “view and save” feature allows them to quickly pull up drawings created in Osmo’s Monster and Masterpiece. And in-app tips suggest ways they can stay connected to their child’s play.

That’s all critical, Sharma said, at a time when children 8 and under are spending an average of 2.25 hours per day staring at an electronic screen, and when just 19 percent of parents set and enforce screen time limits for their kids.

Detective Agency starts at $40, and it’s available today.

“As parents, we understand the power of a thoughtfully-constructed digital experience to teach and entertain, but too often content is optimized to keep kids passively staring at screens for as long as possible,” Sharma said. “Detective Agency, like all Osmo experiences, was created to provide a healthy, digital experience centered on physical play. Our parent platform builds on that sensible screen time approach by helping parents better understand and even participate in their children’s experiences.”

Tangible Play, which was founded in 2013 by Sharma and Jerome Scholler (both Stanford alums and former Google employees) with the mission of “[creating] something that inspires the youngest generation,” has raised more than $38 million from venture capital firms. Its first three games in 2014 — Newton, Tangram, and Words — led to follow-ups including Numbers, Masterpiece, Coding, Awbie, Monster, and Pizza Co.

Osmo’s been named Time Magazine’s Best Inventions and is a Parents’ Choice award winner.

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