I’m a big fan of Osmo, which makes apps that combine digital and physical play. I love that way that it uses the iPad’s camera to blur the line between the tactile objects on the table and the on-screen world, making the iPad more of a window rather than a barrier you can’t cross. Osmo’s sets have let kids experiment with spelling, arithmetic, coding, drawing, and now: business.
The latest set, just launched today, is called Pizza Co., and it’s about running a pizza shop.
I spoke with Pramod Sharma, CEO and Co-founder of Osmo, and got to see a little demo of Pizza Co. via videoconference, and I’ll have a hands-on review later on when I get a set. Sharma explained that he really wanted kids to get a feel for being entrepreneurs: not just the idea of making money and making something for customers, but also getting to decide how to reinvest their money in the business. He likened Pizza Co. to the old lemonade stand—both the actual stand and, I suppose, the computer game that many of us grew up playing—with some updated twists.
The Pizza Co. set comes with a circular board that looks like a pizza on one side (grey on the back), a tray of six types of pizza toppings, and a tray of play money in bills and coins. Once you’ve got it set up, you open up your pizza shop, and animal customers will start arriving, asking for pizza. One might like everything but anchovies, another one might like green ingredients, another might want veggies only. As you put ingredients on the pizza, the customer will react in real time, getting happier or more upset based on what you put there. Once you’re done, you slide the pizza to the right, where it goes into an oven.
And then, you need to ring up the customer. Flip the pizza board over to the back, and it becomes the cashier’s area. The screen shows you the cost of the pizza and what the customer is paying with. You need to use the coins and bills to make change for the customer.
More customers will show up, so you’ll need to manage both the pizza and the change efficiently so customers don’t get impatient.
That’s the basic version of the game. The app will give you hints as needed, but gives you a chance to figure things out first. For instance, when making change, at first you’re just presented with the total bill and the cash that the customer is using to pay. As you wait, or if you keep giving the incorrect amount, the app will provide more information, like totaling up the customer’s payment, telling you how much change to provide, and so on.
As you play, though, you’ll earn tips from customers, which will unlock more advanced modes of play. Sharma explained that you’ll have the opportunity to spend money you earn to improve your restaurant, decorating it the way you like. But in the harder modes, you’ll also be responsible for ordering ingredients, which are just provided automatically in the basic version. Run out of olives? Better buy some more, and hope that you didn’t spend all of your money on fancy new chairs.
Osmo’s hope is that Pizza Co. will spur kids to be entrepreneurs: the emotional connection to the customers as they react to the pizzas, the financial literacy learned from managing inventory, and the excitement of making their own decisions about how to operate their business. Coupled with that is some real-world math, helping kids get proficient at addition and subtraction in a practical setting.
The Pizza Co. set retails for $39; if you don’t have the Osmo base and mirror attachment yet, you can pick up the Commerce Kit for $59, which includes the Pizza Co. and the base, and will also work with the Newton and Masterpiece apps, which do not require additional specialized equipment. All of the Osmo products are available directly from Osmo’s website or on Amazon.