To the wider world, Nintendo’s new Labo initiative, consisting of cardboard printouts that you fold to make specialized controllers for Switch games, is a crazy idea. For those of us that have been folding up Cardboard VR headsets and sticking phones in them for the past three years, though, it’s a little more viable. Don’t expect the child-centric idea to lay the foundations for Nintendo’s own VR plans, though.
At first sight, the idea of folding up Cardboard to make any kind of VR controller you want, from fishing rods to mech battles suits, is an enticing one. Labo gets users to place the Switch’s joy con controllers in designated slots on the given device, a little like how you’d place a Vive Tracker on a real-world object to bring it into VR (though the tech isn’t anywhere near as sophisticated). In the mech suit, the user even attaches joy con controller to their head for what looks like a primitive form of head tracking.
However, in an interview with Toronto Sun, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stated: “It’s not meant to be some sort of competitive answer [to virtual reality]. It’s meant to be something totally unique, totally unexpected.”
His comments seem to suggest the initiative isn’t competing with the VR market more than not trying to lay the foundations for VR itself, but that still suggests we won’t see Labo VR anytime soon. While this feels like a missed opportunity for the VR industry (and, perhaps, Nintendo itself), it’s certainly not surprising. It was only earlier this week that the company once again downplayed its interest in VR tech, though we still have faint hopes that it will jump into the industry with its Switch console at some point. That probably won’t stop us from dressing up as a cardboard robot, though.