Nintendo Labo – How these Cardboard Add-ons Work


I got to try out Nintendo Labo today, a DIY cardboard kit made especially for Nintendo Switch. I got to try out a variety of mini-games like fishing, playing with the keyboard and stomping around like a giant robot.

Since its all made of cardboard, it seems really simple, but there’s actually a lot of really interesting tech behind it all. But, before we get into all of that we have to start by actually building the projects.

Oh, wait, I have it, I’m sorry.(upbeat hip hop music)I would say this sheet of cardboard is actually a little bit thicker than your regular like, cereal box cardboard, it’s definitely not as thick as Amazon packaging cardboard, but I’m being as gentle and delicate as I can with it. It’s a little bit like doing origami, but the cardboard is a lot stiffer than regular paper.

This is making me realize just how to like spatially challenged I am. Oh, I think we messed up, but it’s okay if you mess up because you can go forward and backward on the app and it tells you just exactly where you screwed up. If you’ve ever used the Ikea AR app, it’s really helpful to see things in 3D instead of like a flat 2D space.

So we just finished building the RC car, and each kit actually comes with two of them, one is blank so you can customize it however you want. You can control it with the Switch here, pressing the right red controller will make it vibrate and move. It does the same thing for the blue controller. If you wanna make it go one direction you can press both of them at the same time. So this part is really interesting.

There’s actually a camera in one of the controllers here and you can see through the camera on the app. It almost kind of looks like night vision here. Can even make it look at me, there I am. And another super cool thing is if you just tap it one more time it turns into a heat-sensing camera. And actually, if you put it on auto-mode, it can follow you around according to the source of heat here.

If I put my hand in front of it, it follows the source of heat. This is actually the IR camera on the controller, and beyond seeing your own body heat, it works with these little reflective IR stickers that pick up on the camera really easily. And here’s where the Labo gets really interesting. By arranging them in a certain way, you’re basically creating a code for the camera to receive.

Sure, you expect the normal tilt-based controls, like this motorcycle where you turn the controller to drive the engine, or the robot visor were tilting my head controls the direction I walk. But something like the keyboard, each of the keys have a sticker on the back which the camera at the end of the piano picks up to see which note is being played.

Nintendo Labo
Nintendo Labo

There are also IR stickers on the little knobs you can plug in and dial to change the pitch of the sounds. For the robot kit, all these strings are attached to weights that pull the IR stickers up and down when you throw a punch. The controller in the back can see the stickers move, which controls the robot. So, the IR camera on the controller really wasn’t utilized that much before the Labo.

Basically, it can detect an object in a 3D space, so its really only used for a handful of games, like the eating contest game on 1-2-Switch. What’s really cool about Labois just how it opens up a world of possibilities like there’s so much potential for 3D printing communities, or like the DIY enthusiasts online to come together and share what they know.

Just really make it their own. And in keeping with this style, Nintendo actually introduced Toy-Con Garage, which lets you reprogram the Toy-Cons you have, and remix their features and map different buttons to different actions. For example, if you press a button on the blue controller, it can make the red controller vibrate.

So right now there are two different kits you can buy. There’s the Robot Kit, which is $79, lets you stomp around like a giant robot. And there’s also the Variety Kit, which is $69.Seems like a better value because there are five Toy-Cons you can make with the Toy-Con Garage you can actually mix and play with it all again. At the end of the day, Nintendo isn’t just selling a cardboard kit, it’s selling a platform.

There’s so much you can do with the technology they’re offering.No matter which kit you decide to go with, I think you’re gonna love it all. I mean, for the first year the Switches are already doing super amazing, developers are flocking to the console.

So I’m really looking forward to seeing what other things they’re gonna add to it. You can tilt your head to move directions, walk up to a building.- Big robot steps.- And just smash the hell out of it.