As a gaming company, Nintendo has always been in the pursuit of finding new ways to play. They introduced us to bowling in our living rooms many years ago with the release of the Wii (while inadvertently launching the modern drone industry) and while the design of their latest hardware, the Nintendo Switch seems conservative by comparison, their latest news shows that they’ve still got plenty of tricks up their sleeve. Nintendo just announced Labo: a cardboard kit for makers that works with the Switch, to empower users to create interactive hardware and games.
From the trailer; it seems like much of what you’ll be building with Labo is made of punch-out, fold-together cardboard toys, similar to Pinbox 3000 or Kitrex. But where Labo makes a pretty hard split from the rest of the bunch is the ways that it interacts with Nintendo’s existing hardware. The Switch is essentially a gaming tablet with a touch screen and two detachable controllers on either side. Those controllers, called Joy-Cons, are packed with tons of interesting hardware: Each one packs a number of buttons, an analog joystick, plus a gyroscope, an accelerometer, an NFC reader and an infrared depth camera. When you compare them to some of the entry level microcontroller boards like the Circuit Playground or the MicroBit, there’s not much between them – well, there’s a pretty sore lacking of RGB LEDs – something to improve on in the second hardware rev.
The video doesn’t show much of the software interface, but it’s easy to see how a drag & drop programming interface, similar to MakeCode, can introduce a ton of creativity and interactivity for different projects. What we do get to see are a ton of the sorts of projects they have in mind: a 13-key piano, a fishing rod, a camera, what looks like a giant sized controllable brush bot, and a robot kit that uses elastic tension cords to translate the wearer’s arm movements into digital inputs.
Nintendo Labo is planned for release on April 20th of this year, and will be sold in two kits: the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit for $69.99 and $79.99, respectively. The Variety kit lets you build five different projects: The “RC Car” brushbots, a house, a motorbike, a fishing rod, and an 11 key piano. The robot kit lets you build the aforementioned robot suit, which includes a headset, backpack straps, and all of the tension cords to assemble it – both kits also include software for the switch. Nintendo is also running some limited demo events in New York and San Francisco, so if you’re excited to see what Nintendo Labo is all about, you can apply on their website.