'Nintendo Labo' Lets You Use Cardboard to Turn Your Switch Into Just About Anything

Shape of a cardboard fishing rod

'Nintendo Labo' Lets You Use Cardboard to Turn Your Switch Into Just About Anything

Nintendo today unveiled the Nintendo Labo, an initiative that allows Switch owners to use homemade cardboard accessories to turn their JoyCon controllers into a variety of accessories - from robot suits to fishing rods, pianos and little cars. Nintendo Labo launches on April 20th with two kits: the Variety Kit and the Robot Kit for $70 to $80.

Nintendo calls Labo a "new line of interactive build-and-play experiences designed to inspire kids and those who are kids-at-heart," in its press release.

The Nintendo Labo kits work in conjunction with a Nintendo Switch, providing the tools and technology to make fun DIY creations, play games with your creations and discover how the magic of Nintendo Switch technology shapes ideas into reality, according to the release.

Each kit comes with modular sheets of cardboard specially designed to interact with the Nintendo Switch console and JoyCon controllers, turning the entire contraption into something that Nintendo is calling a Toy-Con. "From a piano to a motorbike, a robot and more, each Toy-Con comes to life when combined with Nintendo Switch in different ways," according to the release.

Nintendo says you can use the kits to build a functioning 13-key piano that brings your musical creations to life once the Nintendo Switch console and Right Joy-Con controller are inserted. As you play, the IR Motion Camera in the Right Joy-Con detects which keys are pressed and translates them into unique notes that are heard through the console. With another kit you can control a motorbike by constructing a functioning set of handlebars, with a Joy-Con inserted in each side and the Nintendo Switch console cradled in the middle. Simply hit the ignition button, turn the right handle to engage the accelerator and watch your adventure unfold on the Nintendo Switch screen, as you race to new destinations.

The Variety Kit, one of the two that Labo launches with, allows you to make a variety of Toy-Con including two Toy-Con RC Cars, a Toy-Con Fishing Rod, a Toy-Con House, a Toy-Con Motorbike and a Toy-Con Piano. The other launch kit, the Robot Kit, allows you to build an interactive robot suit with a visor, backpack and straps for your hands and feet, which you can then wear to assume control of a giant in-game robot. Both kits include everything you need to assemble your Toy-Con creations, including the building materials and relevant Nintendo Switch software. The Variety Kit will be available at a suggested retail price of $69.99, and the Robot Kit will be available at a suggested retail price of $79.99. A special Customization Set that includes fun stencils, stickers and colored tape will also be available to purchase on April 20th at a suggested retail price of $9.99. You can read more about Nintendo Labo at the official site.

While the Nintendo Labo news isn't exactly what I was expecting to hear when the veil lifted, the endeavor does seem to make use of the same technology I wrote about in the patents this morning. Specifically, the Nintendo Lab uses the Joy-Cons ability to transmit and receive IR light through its sensors to detect movement and essentially translate that into play. In the examples in the patent, the technology is being used to detect the shape and motion of a players hand and then use that for gameplay. In Nintendo Labo, the tech appears to be looking for shapes and movement in pieces of cardboard.

Earlier this month, Nintendo announced that the Switch is the fastest-selling home game system in U.S. history. The company says it has sold more than 4.8 million of the console in the U.S. since the system's launch ten months ago, surpassing even the Wii's record of about 4 million in ten months.

Nintendo games seem to dominate the system, according to Nintendo. In the U.S., more than 60 percent of Nintendo Switch owners have Super Mario Odyssey, and more than 55 percent own The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both are the highest-rated games in history. More than 50 percent of Nintendo Switch owners own Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and 20 percent own Splatoon 2. There are also more than 300 third-party games available for the Switch, Nintendo notes. No sales numbers or percentages were released for those titles.