Osmo has been one of my favorite tech toy companies in recent years, combining digital and analog play in clever ways. In case you’re not familiar with Osmo already, there’s a base that holds your tablet upright and a small mirror that attaches to the front-facing camera. Using that camera, the software is able to recognize various accessories that you put on the table surface in front of the iPad, allowing you to play games that teach math, drawing, programming, music, and more.
Today, Osmo introduced a new product in partnership with Mattel: MindRacers. It’s a game that brings Hot Wheels cars to virtual life. I had a chance to talk to Pramod Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Osmo, about the new game.
First up, here’s what’s included in the MindRacers package, which will retail for $59 (without the base) or $79 (with base):
- 6 Hot Wheels cars
- Car Launcher
- 32 game pieces
You’ll need an Osmo base to play, as well as the free app, available from the Apple App Store.
Yep, there are real Hot Wheels cars included—these six were chosen to have a range of car types and personalities. Right now only these six cars can be used with the app, though if the product does well I imagine there will be more cars added later.
The launcher looks like the start of a Hot Wheels track—the two cars sit side by side in their launching stations at the top of a small ramp. Pushing the button sends them down the ramp on the track, and into two tunnels (and then out the sides of the tunnels). The Osmo base sits on top of the tunnels, and the app is designed so that as the cars drive into the tunnels, they appear to drive onto the screen of the game.
The game pieces are small discs with various icons on them and are used for various effects during the game.
How to Play MindRacers
In the app, you’ll have some options for choosing a track, and then each player puts their chosen car on the launcher. The app recognizes the cars and starts up the race. Then, as your cars travel down the track, you put your game pieces down on the table or launcher, where the camera can see them. They have different effects—boosts for yourself and obstacles for your opponent—similar to the power-ups in Super Mario Kart. I was able to see a demo over videochat but wasn’t able to try it myself yet.
Here’s the video trailer:
The six cars all have their own personalities in the app, and have special animations within the app that brings them to life.
There are competitive and cooperative modes, and you can race against another player or against the AI.
So far, all of Osmo’s products have had a more explicitly educational bent: spelling, arithmetic, coding. Osmo Monster, which is sort of like a Mad Libs adventure but with drawings instead of words, has the obvious goal of getting kids to draw and think imaginatively. Pizza Co. is a restaurant-running game where you need to serve pizzas quickly—but you also do math in calculating change for the customers, and deciding how to spend your cash to upgrade your restaurant. MindRacers seemed to stand out as a little more toy-based to me, so I asked Sharma about the approach.
Sharma responded that Osmo’s mission is to create “nutritious play”—play that is engaging and creative, focusing on what kids love. Playing with cars is something that already has a lot going for it, and the challenge for Osmo was how to reinvent them for the digital world. They hit upon the idea of the launcher to enable that illusion of the cars driving onto the screen, but they’re also real toys that you can play with outside of the app—they’ll fit on your physical Hot Wheels tracks, too. The game isn’t just a traditional driving game, either: you don’t steer the way you do in typical driving games, but rather have to decide how best to use your tokens to get ahead. There’s a bit of strategic thinking involved in knowing when to use them, because you have a limited number for the entire course. The race takes place in your mind—thus, “MindRacers.”
MindRacers for Boys and Girls
It was particularly striking to me that the promotional photos show boys and girls playing with MindRacers. In fact, the video ad features a girl as the main character—something that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected from a Hot Wheels product. Sharma was adamant about this: that cars are toys that any kids can play with, and that they shouldn’t be thought of as just toys for boys. He has a daughter himself, and I could tell that he was particularly proud that the MindRacers set is the first Hot Wheels product that says “for boys and girls 7+” right on the box. Sure, Hot Wheels toys in the past may have just had an age rating and they didn’t explicitly say “for boys” only, but they’ve clearly been marketed for boys.
As somebody who grew up playing with Hot Wheels cars, I’m excited to see if my own daughters will take me up on a race—and I’m hoping they don’t run off with the cars! I don’t know if MindRacers will replace some of the other Osmo games that we really enjoy, but it certainly looks like fun.
Where to Buy MindRacers
Want to know more? Here are our articles about Osmo here at GeekDad and GeekMom.