Nintendo Does VR Now, Again

Nintendo’s VR Goggles.
Nintendo’s VR Goggles.
Image: Nintendo

The Nintendo Switch already felt like the best part of a VR experience thanks to the wizardry of the Joy-Con controllers in some games, but now it’s going full VR. Tonight the company announced the Nintendo Labo: VR Kit, an $80 Labo kit that lets users build a VR headset out of cardboard. This is the first major foray into VR for the company since the 1995 Virtual Boy.

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Labo is a very clever idea, allowing people to create all sorts of peripherals for the Switch that might not be used every day, and then letting them dismantle them and toss them in a drawer when not in use. We’re a fan of Labo for the possibilities it provides for creative gamers and programmers, and we’ve found it’s a decent tool for learning how to program or tinker.

Using it to turn the Switch into a handheld VR headset is such an obvious idea it kind of makes me want to kick myself for not considering it before this. Particularly as one of the most widely experience forms of VR to date is Google Cardboard, which took a similar tact but for phones instead of game consoles.

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As with Cardboard the Labo VR Kit won’t have you strapping anything to your face, and you likely won’t be playing AAA titles. Instead, you’ll play smaller VR experiences designed for one of the six Toy-Con projects found with the Labo: VR Kit. Those projects are the Toy-Con VR Goggles themselves, the Toy-Con Blaster, Toy-Con Camera, Toy-Con Bird, Toy-Con Wind Pedal, and Toy-Con Elephant...which I guess will let you turn yourself into a cardboard elephant?

The $80 kit of very fancy cardboard (as well as the Labo software) will be available April 12. A cheaper Starter Set, which includes the cardboard necessary for the Goggles and Blaster will be available for $40, and there will be two additional expansion packs, each for $20. One including the Elephant and Camera, and the other including the Wind Pedal and Bird.

This is a strikingly safe way for Nintendo to toe the VR waters it fled way back in 1995. Personally, I’m wondering if the goggles will have as distinctive and memorable a smell as the Virtual Boy, and somewhere I’m sure my dad is delighted he can just buy a bunch of cardboard instead of renting us an entire headset at Blockbuster.

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Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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DISCUSSION

Using it to turn the Switch into a handheld VR headset is such an obvious idea it kind of makes me want to kick myself for not considering it before this.

I love my Switch, but I’m skeptical of turning it into a VR device. I get a bit of the screen-door effect on my Pixel XL, which is a 1440 x 2560 screen shoved into 5.5 inches — that’s 534 pixels-per-inch. The Nintendo Switch, by comparison, is 1280 x 720 stretched across 6.2 inches, which is 237 ppi. This is an acceptable resolution for a portable unit, since rendering at a higher resolution would only burn through the battery quicker. And besides, the screen looks fine when held from the appropriate distance. But it’s not so hot for VR, which shoves the screen an inch in front of your face and exposes all its flaws.

But /shrug, maybe Nintendo figured out a way to design the intended games around that problem. Guess we’ll see!