I spent the morning playing with the Nintendo Labo

I spent the morning playing with the Nintendo Labo
From TechCrunch - February 1, 2018

Labo is peak Nintendo. Its strange, its innovative, its pretty silly and its completely unexpected. As longtime PR rep David Young told us during a quick chat at todays event, when people think were going to zig, we zag. Nintendo Labo is Maximum Zag.

We spent most of the morning with Labo, at a brightly colored event in New York City, staffed by a team of enthusiastic reps. They walked us through the creation process in a space overflowing with eager kids and tins full of gummy bears and goldfish crackers.

Three quick observations after devoting most of my day to the cardboard kits.

I didnt really know what to make of the whole system before actually sitting down with a couple of kits. The online response was divided between the excited and the understandably skeptical. $80 for some cardboard? was the basic sentiment in the latter camp.

After a few hours with Labo, I wouldnt say I feel like a kid again exactly, but Im entirely impressed by what the company was able to accomplish by thinking outside the (cardboard) box.

In some ways, Labo is as much a showcase for some of the Switchs under-recognized technologies as it is a showcase for Nintendos in-house creativity. Take the Variety Kits simplest offering, the RC cars. A Joy-Con slots in either side of the cardboard car, utilizing the haptic HD rumble to propel the vehicle forward through vibration.

The real secret sauce in most of the Toy Cons, however, is the IR Motion Camera. The more advanced kits use strategically placed pieces of reflective tape to trigger movement. Inside the the robot kit are four columns responding to a players limbs. When an arm or a leg moves, it slides the piece of tape up. The movement is read by Joy-Cons on-board camera and the robot on-screen moves accordingly.

Theres a similar mechanism working inside the piano Toy Con. When a key is pressed, it moves the tape, producing a sound through the switch. In both cases, the whole thing is impressively responsive. Aside from the fact that the black keys wiggle a bit (cardboard, remember), it really does feel like playing an electric keyboard.

As for assembly, things start off simple and get complex quickly. One of the attendees offhandedly remarked that the whole thing felt like assembling Ikea furniture. Thats not an altogether inaccurate description of the process, honestly. If youve got a kid in your life whos obsessed with construction kits, theres a lot of appeal here, though a lot of that time is spent popping shapes out of sheets and folding along creaseswhich can be satisfying in their own right, I suppose.

The amount of time required to execute the projects caught me a bit off-guard. Nintendo gave us about an hour to set up the fishing pole, and only about half of us actually finished the project in that time. Mind you, that kits not nearly as complex as, say, the robot, which ships as its own standalone.


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