Nintendo's newly revealed gaming innovation? Cardboard construction kits.
You read that right. While the rest of the technology world is focussing on virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the decade's long effort to deliver photorealistic graphics, Nintendo yesterday announced a series of cardboard cut-out toys under the 'Nintendo Labo' brand. And it might be the most distinct, family-friendly gaming technology we've seen in years.
Because Nintendo Labo is not about what it is made from; it's about what you can do with it. Nintendo Labo is to be available as a series kits in Europe from April 27th this year, and allows users to build sturdy looking mechanical constructions. Most of those contraptions include spaces to slot in the Nintendo Switch console – which includes, of course, its own screen – or the controllers. Some even have a scattering of elastic bands and strings inside too, as well as cardboard levers and pulleys. That means the ability to build, for example, a working mechanical piano, or a remote controlled robot steerable from the Switch. One kit even contains a robotic exoskeleton user that a user can wear, which uses systems of real pulleys that link Switch JoyCon controllers, as well as the player's feet and hands, so as to control a huge digital robot in a game; meaning it offers quite literally a wearable home-made motion capture system.
It does all this by using all the Switch's hardware abilities - vibration, motion detection, touch screen and more - combined, of course, with some very smart cardboard engineering. Each creation is called a 'Toy-Con', and can be used to play games, or interact with digital instruments and playthings. And being made of cardboard, it's very easy to paint and decorate to your family's own tastes, or even custom re-engineer contraptions. To get a better handle of just how all this actually works, take a look at this official Nintendo video.
The idea at its core is a brilliant one, because other than simply offering, for example, a motorbike racing game, Nintendo Labo brings families together to build a working steering mechanism and accelerator grip before they get playing. That makes the process of booting up and playing a game creative, social, educational and fun all in one exciting process.
The first wave of releases in April brings two kits: The Variety Kit, which offers fiver medium-sized Toy-Cons including the piano and motorbike. There's also the Robot Kit, which offer the one huge Toy-Con - that wearable robot exoskeleton. More informations a viable on Nintendo's official Labo website.
Of course, the quality of the Toy-Cons, the practicalities of the build process and the reality of the digital games is yet to be seen. But as ideas go, Labo is a fantastic one... and here at AskAboutGames we never thought we'd be so excited by cardboard. And just look inside one of the Toy-Cons...
Oh - and each kit thus far is rated PEGI-3.