Hardware kits, internet-connected toys and robots that teach kids to code are now commonplace. But Osmo, an early entrant in IoT toys, is pulling ahead of the pack with funding and partnerships with top names in the field.
Specifically, Osmo has raised $24 million in new venture funding from Mattel, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Collab+Sesame, the venture fund run in partnership by New York-based Collaborative Fund and Sesame Workshop and Calibrate Partners. The company’s earlier backers, Accel Partners, Upfront Ventures and K9 Ventures, also joined the round.
The Palo Alto startup, which launched in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2013 as Tangible Play, makes products that integrate physical puzzle pieces, board games and blocks with mobile games and content on the iPad.
In its version of the classic educational game Tangrams, kids rearrange geometric pieces to form the shape of an animal, or another image, shown on an iPad screen. The company’s software uses the camera of the iPad to see how the kid is progressing. So the Tangrams app can see when a player has successfully pieced a desired image together, congratulate them and serve up a new challenge.
Osmo products are used in 22,000 schools globally, and sold in 50 countries, the company says.
According to CEO and co-founder Pramod Sharma, Osmo will use its funding to adapt some of its popular toys and games for use on the iPhone, including Words, Tangram, Newton and Numbers.
Perhaps more excitingly, for fans of characters like Elmo or Barbie and toys like Mega Bloks, Osmo is also working in partnership with Sesame Workshop and Mattel to develop new, character-driven content for its products.
Sesame Workshop is providing research to Osmo for the creation of educational products that will help more children learn through play, a Sesame spokesperson said. There are currently no plans to develop toys with Osmo based on Sesame Street characters.
Sharma said the company also has an engagement with a big research firm pending to figure out how Osmo toys impact learning and development in kids and schools.
However, the CEO explained, “When we pitch Osmo to teachers nobody asks for research. They know these are classic things that are good for kids, like playing a word game to learn about spelling. We bring a high level of engagement to that. Coding as well. So in some sense we don’t have to prove this is educationally sound. Teachers already know.”
Correction: This post was updated to reflect the scope of what Sesame Workshop plans to build with Osmo in the near-term. The story previously implied there were plans for Sesame, and another investor in Osmo, Mattel, to develop mixed reality toys based on Sesame’s characters.