Back when I was at school one of my favourite classes was Technology. We had the chance to mess around with these pretty advanced sets of Lego, each of which came with a central unit that could easily be compared to the CPU in your PC. Using some visual blocks on a computer, we were able to give the unit some rudimentary programmable functions. Rotating motors, using light sensors and all that. It was a gentle introduction into what I’d eventually know as programming, and it’s exactly what Nintendo is allowing you to do with Labo.
Labo is the crazy cardboard product that Nintendo is bringing out for the Switch this April, and it’s going to ship with a bunch of blueprints to allow you to make pianos, robots and fishing rods. They’re all tied to specific games though, which doesn’t give you the most creative freedom with their designs. The Garage Toy Con, a new facet of Labo that was shown off to journalists in New York yesterday, is the other side of this coin. It’s giving users the ability to visually program functions on the JoyCon, and attach those to custom cardboard creations for your own robots.
Kotaku, who was at the event, described it as a visual “if-then” statement. Using blocks on the Switch console itself, users can rearrange console functions (outputs) and assign them to specific actions of the player (inputs). As an example they saw, a demo showed how you could map a press of up on the D-Pad to the vibration motor in the left JoyCon. Attach that to a cardboard insect of sorts with four legs and a JoyCon on its back, and the vibrations can move it forward. Viola, a walking robot.
That’s a simple example, and I’m hoping Nintendo will open up the assortment of sensors on the JoyCon for you to mess with (things like the IR scanner and the different levels of the sorely under-used HD Rumble). These types of applications are both fun and educative. Learning simple flows and reactions to inputs isn’t just a fundamental starting point for any sort of programming,m but it’s the basis of good reasoning and logic creation. There’s a lot kids can learn with tools like this, and it just makes Labo sound even more incredible than it already does.
Last Updated: February 2, 2018