‘STEM toys will have an invaluable role to play in a post-pandemic world’, says Osmo CEO

With the likelihood that schools and universities will begin to ‘adopt a more hybrid model’ of offline and online learning in the coming months, experts in the educational toy sector have suggested that a post-pandemic world will see a greater value placed on STEM toys and STEM learning.

It’s the belief of the award-winning toy company, Osmo, that as a new hybrid market begins to emerge from the dust clouds of 2020 and the impacts of the coronavirus, there will be an accelerated pace of tech-driven innovation in education. It believes that as a result of this, STEM toys are “likely to be a very important and invaluable part of our future.”

Speaking exclusively with ToyNews, Osmo CEO, Pramod Sharma, said that as more and more families across the globe have turned to home-schooling this year, “many families are displaying a growing appreciation for how digital technology can benefit education where it doesn’t work.”

2020 has proven to be a critical year for Osmo who not only took home a Silver award in the recent UKMums.TV awards for Best Toy for eight to 11 year old children, but also took a starring role in this year’s Top Toys for Christmas selection from the iconic London toy shop, Hamleys.

While 2020 hasn’t been without its challenges, for Osmo the wider impact of the coronavirus has witnessed an increase in online learning and a subsequent rise in sales for the company that makes it its mission to lead the innovation in the online-offline education toy sphere.

Here, ToyNews catches up with Osmo’s CEO Sharma to discuss the Osmo journey, what the STEM toy and learning platform is bringing to the educational play sector, and how it is pushing innovation and shaping its future.

Pramod Sharma, CEO, Osmo

Hello Pramod, thank you for talking with us. To kick us off, can you talk us through the Osmo concept and how it came to fruition? What does Osmo bring the toy industry and to the STEM learning market?

The idea for Osmo came about when dropping my daughter off at the Google daycare and noticing there weren’t any tech products for her to play with and explore. It got me thinking that there must be a solution to creating a positive and educational screen time experience for kids. 

What Osmo brings to the industry and the STEM learning market is that it’s a unique learning device that allows children to combine the world of physical play with the digital landscape. We know that children now are extremely present online, so it’s about monitoring that and transforming it into an educational experience.

Our games promote coding, maths, drawing, spelling, physics and geography to name a few, and it encourages children to use their imagination, storytelling and creativity. More than 30,000 classrooms worldwide are now incorporating Osmo into the curriculum, and over 2.5 M million households, giving children the opportunity to collaborate, create, think critically, and communicate. 

How has business been for you guys over the course of 2020, how have you adapted to the challenges that this year has thrown as us all? How is this reflected in Osmo’s approach to the toy market this year?

2020 has been a tough year for so many, and businesses across the world have had to adapt to the changes that Covid-19 has brought. For Osmo, online learning has seen a positive increase, and we have seen a rise in sales. It’s been really great to see that Osmo has helped so many children with their learning when they haven’t been able to go to school, and also given parents that relief when they have felt the pressures of homeschooling or being stuck at home.

We also launched five new products this year, including the Osmo Coding Starter Kit which has been received brilliantly, winning silver in the recent UKMums.TV awards for ‘Best Toy 8-11 Years’.

How receptive to Osmo have families been this year? Do you think the shift in consumer mind-sets to see the greater value in play will continue into 2021 and beyond? Is this product of the pandemic here to stay?

Since the start of the pandemic, we know that parents across the world have been thrown into unknown territory as they began to navigate homeschooling their children. During the first lockdown in the UK, some consumer research we conducted found that over half of British parents found home-schooling harder than their day job, with one in ten admitting they could only dedicate one hour of time to their child’s education per day.

What was really interesting was that more than half of parents claimed they were running out of creative ideas to keep their children entertained, as two in three parents were looking for more engaging activities to fill their children’s day. 

Therefore it’s fair to say many are growing appreciation for how digital technology can benefit education and where it doesn’t work. As we continue into 2021, most schools and universities will likely adopt a more hybrid learning model – the best of offline and online learning. This new market will help accelerate the pace of tech-driven innovation in education.

How is Osmo taking the concept of learning through play to the next level? What bridges does it create between digital and physical play, and is it setting a new precedent in the learning toys market?

Osmo is an interactive children’s toy that uses innovative technology to bring physical tools into the digital world through augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Merging tactile play with technology, Osmo creates a hands-on learning experience combined with the digital trends we’re seeing today. 

The range of games available provide the tools for children to develop skills, as well as weaving in some of their favourite brands through our partnerships with the likes of Disney and Hot Wheels. Osmo helps to keep children engaged through each activity as they see their own creations come to life in front of them. 

When it comes to education, AI can help enable adaptive learning, personalising learning for individual students, as well as improving the quality of classes, especially when it comes to something like a foreign language – taking learning away from the textbook. AI in the future could importantly help improve student services, helping schools tailor material and content, as well as pace of learning, to students strengths and weaknesses. 

You’ve not only been the recipients of numerous awards, but you’ve featured in the Hamleys Top Toys for Christmas listing – what does it mean for the Osmo brand to be featured alongside such heavy hitters at such a key time of year?

This year has been a really strong year for Osmo. We have received multiple accolades across parenting awards in the UK. This includes three wins in the UKMums.TV awards with the Osmo Pizza Co. Game Set winning gold in ‘Best Creative Toy’, Osmo Coding Starter Kit awarded Silver in ‘Best Toy 8-11 Years’ and the Osmo Little Genius Kit awarded Bronze in ‘Best Toy for Boys 4-7 Years’.  The Osmo Coding Kit has also been chosen as a Highly Commended Award Winner in the 2020 Dad’s Choice Awards. 

As well as these brilliant wins, we are extremely proud to have been included in the Hamleys Top Toys for Christmas with the Osmo Genius Kit. It’s a huge success to have been featured alongside many other amazing toy brands, particularly after a year when home education has been so crucial. 

What’s the next big step for Osmo? How will you maintain and build upon this position of strength you have in the market?

As we navigate through the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, we will continue to provide the tools for children to learn through play, especially when it comes to subjects like math and literacy, enhanced by some of our new options like the latest release, Osmo Math Wizard. This new curriculum-inspired approach makes adding and subtracting numbers, along with measuring, so fun, approachable, and un-intimidating, which makes a huge difference for a child who may feel apprehensive about math, while lessening anxiety for parents who feel obligated to teach their child math.

We are also continuing to expand globally; we have already entered the markets in America, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and soon will expand our presence in Asia. We are excited to see where we will go next, and the impact this will have on children’s learning. 

What do you think the future of STEM toys and learning holds, and how will Osmo be leading that charge over the years to come?

With the uncertainty of Covid-19, STEM toys are likely to be very important and an invaluable part of our future. Osmo is already leading the charge by using things such as reflective artificial intelligence, a system that uses a stand and clip-on mirror to allow the iPad’s front-facing camera to recognize and track objects in the physical play space in front of the device.

It is becoming apparent that STEM tools, such as Osmo, are looking more and more likely to become a core part of the tools used for learning, just like using a piece of paper and pencil have been. We have seen the growth of STEM tools not only when it comes to coding subjects, but also more frequently for self-paced and personalised learning, and there are an increasing number of people who believe that a focus on early STEM education is important for future career development.

We are excited to see what the future of STEM toys and Osmo will look like. 

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