I’m not much of a gamer so Labo wasn’t really on my radar when the first kits were released in 2018. I am, however, passionate about STEM education, maker-centred learning and promoting creativity. For these reasons, Labo caught my attention recently. I treated myself to the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit and I’ve been playing with it over summer. I might be late to the party on this but, let me tell you, this is an exciting product with limitless potential for education!
So, what is Nintendo Labo? At first glance, not much! A very expensive pile of cardboard, you might think! But there’s much more to it than that! Nintendo Labo kits offer the DIY construction of cardboard products, known as Toy-Con. The included Nintendo Switch software provides step-by-step instructions on how to create the Toy-Con products, as well as playable video games that utilise them, information on how they work and even a coding platform to take it further. It’s definitely a STEM product first, and a video games product second.
There are currently four kits available:
- Variety Kit
- Robot Kit
- Vehicle Kit
- VR Kit
The information in this blog post is based on my experience with the Variety Kit. This includes five Toy-Con products: RC Car (x2), Fishing Rod, House, Motorbike and Piano. However, the same principles apply to the other kits, too.
The Labo software is divided into three main sections: Make, Play and Discover (as shown on the screen above). Let’s discuss each of them in turn.
The Make section of the software offers instructions on how to build each Toy-Con product using the cardboard cutouts provided. The instructions are well animated, and users can easily move forwards and backwards at their own pace. Using the touchscreen, they can also zoom in on the diagrams and rotate. This makes even the most complicated mechanisms easy to follow.
The software introduces and continually reinforces key mechanisms and fixtures. These can be applied beyond Nintendo Labo to other prototyping or craft activities. In some cases, they included the use of elastic bands, string and other bits and bobs (all provided). As I progressed through the products, the mechanisms became increasingly complex and grew my ability as a maker.
This is where the hard work from making pays off! At this point, users can use their Toy-Con creations to play on the Nintendo Switch console. The software includes games and interactive content for all of the Toy-Con products.
Moreover, some Toy-Con products are compatible with other Nintendo Switch games. In the video below, I’m using the Toy-Con Motorbike to play Mario Kart 8. In another example, the VR Kit offers immersive gameplay in Super Mario Odyssey, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and other popular Switch titles.
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I can take credit for creating the Toy-Con piano, but it’s actually my girlfriend who is playing in the videos below. As a pianist, she was able to make it sound good within seconds. Click the arrows to move between different tunes and notice how she uses the side lever to switch between octaves. There’s also a built-in studio for composing and recording.
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To see more of my Nintendo Labo creations and gameplay, click here.
The Discover section of the software offers more valuable learning content that aligns with current maker trends in education. Here, the elements of the Toy-Con products are explained and users begin to understand how they work. For example, the diagram above shows how the piano works, using the IR camera in the Joy-Con controller to detect the IR stickers on the back of each key. In another example, the Discover information outlines how the RC Cars are controlled through vibrations.
Using the Make, Play and Discover sections of the software, users build their knowledge of design and scientific principles. These can later be applied in the Toy-Con Garage.
Built into the Discover section, the Toy-Con Garage is an invention platform and an introduction to basic coding principles. The simple interface allows users to select Input, Middle and Output blocks (or “nodes”), and connect them with ease by dragging and dropping. By reimagining and repurposing the hardware and Toy-Con elements, full application and creativity can be unlocked! This is where Nintendo Labo becomes really exciting! The possibilities are endless! Watch the short video below for a preview.
My head has been spinning with classroom integration ideas but I’m still figuring out the logistics. If you have any experience of using Labo with students, please share! I’d love to learn from you. In the meantime, I’ll be studying the Nintendo Labo Teacher Guide (that I only discovered today) and continuing to flex my own creative muscles at home. Keep an eye on my social media platforms to see what I create! Even better, grab your own kit and share too! I hope that you enjoy Labo – and see its educational value – as much as I do!
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