Newton for Osmo

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Newton for Osmo App Poster Image
Cool physics + drawing concept misses mark.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn the basics of physics and how objects react to others. As the levels increase, so does the physics, with obstacles such as walls or spinning fans. Since the camera picks up on any lines, kids will have to do some creative problem solving to maneuver those objects to direct the bouncing balls. They can draw the lines on paper, use one of their hands, or grab another object to direct the balls. The games move fast, so kids don't have much time to think or reflect on their moves, but they can certainly get a grasp of how objects affect other objects. Though there are definite limitations on how much kids can learn, Newton for Osmo is a novel way for kids to approach hands-on physics.

Ease of Play

Extremely challenging to play. Sensor picks up on hand, lines in the grain of the flat surface, and even the edge of paper equally, so kids will have to allow for those obstacles when creating their lines.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newton for Osmo is a free download that accompanies the basic gaming system from Osmo. The system, which includes two other apps and toys, retails for $79.99. It comes with a base and a reflector attachment that clips over the iPad's camera. The base fits any iPad, only requiring a slightly different configuration for the iPad Air and Mini. The device will have to be removed from its cover, so parents may want to help younger kids with the setup. To play, kids simply need paper and a pen along with the system. Parents can register with Osmo to set up multiple player accounts on their device. To learn more about the kinds of information collected and shared, read the app's privacy policy.

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What's it about?

Think of NEWTON FOR OSMO like a draw-as-you-play pinball machine. Each level presents different obstacles, but the object is to collect points as quickly as possible by drawing lines that the falling balls bounce off to hit the target. After completing the level, players see their times, get a score of one to three stars, and can then advance to the next unlocked level. The reflector attachment on the system allows it to see what players draw on actual paper, and that is then reflected on the device’s screen.

Is it any good?

The technology involved in interacting with paper and the screen is jaw-dropping, but the implementation raises a few concerns and frustrations. First, the camera picks up any lines, not only those drawn on paper. The lines on your hand, the grain of the wood on the table -- anything the reflector sees shows up as lines in the game. Players have to figure out how to use that to their advantage. Using those lines may actually be necessary, too, because kids could run through a lot of paper if they create new lines for each puzzle. That means they'd need a fresh sheet of paper for each, which can quickly get wasteful. Though the idea is a really cool one, the actuality is less than workable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about physics they observe in the world around them. Experiment with what happens when you drop different objects onto different surfaces.

  • Create a path for balls or marbles to bounce off to get to a target, just as you draw in Newton for Osmo.

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For kids who love puzzles

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