Nintendo’s upcoming Labo VR Kit for Switch includes a trove of creative VR content along with six ‘build it yourself’ cardboard accessories which are paired with VR experiences that work together with them. One of the accessories might look like a goofy ‘elephant’, but a closer look reveals a genius makeshift 6DOF controller made from some cardboard, stickers, and the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers.

You gotta give Nintendo props for their outside of the (cardboard) box thinking. The Labo program itself is already ‘out there’—it aims to deliver family friendly fun and learning by with built-it-yourself cardboard accessories, powered by Switch, which make for novel hands-on experiences. It’s part arts and crafts, part technology, and uniquely Nintendo.

Their newest Labo kit, which is entirely based around VR, embodies the Labo spirit with a creative solution for a makeshift 6DOF controller which gives users a way to reach into VR.

The ‘elephant’ accessory, which is part of the complete Labo VR Kit currently available for pre-order, looks silly at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals that it was likely only made to look like an elephant to contextualize what’s actually a clever way to achieve 6DOF input with little more than the Switch, cardboard, stickers, and the Joy-Con controllers.

Image courtesy Nintendo

With the Switch in the holder as the VR viewer, the two Joy-Con controllers are placed in the ‘trunk’ of the elephant which has two joints. Because the Joy-Con controllers each have an IMU inside, and because the positions of the joints are known, inverse kinematics can be used to mathematically determine the position of the entire trunk.

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But if that’s all they did, the system would be prone to ‘drift’—where it’s orientation would be unreliable over time—which is what the white dots on the ‘face’ of the ‘elephant’ are used for. The right Joy-Con controller is equipped with an IR sensor on the bottom, and the controller’s position in the trunk is oriented toward the IR-reflective dots (which are a known distance from the Switch itself, because of the known size of the cardboard pieces) which gives the whole trunk a static reference point for drift correction. Conceptually, it’s the same function that the external tracking sensors for the Rift and Vive are used for.

The result of this inventive cobbling is a positionally tracked controller which offers 6DOF input into the virtual world as seen through the Switch. In the games that ship with the Labo VR Kit, we can see the ‘elephant’ being used for 3D painting and a physics puzzle game which uses 6DOF input to allow players to place platforms to guide balls to a goal.

Granted, we don’t how well this makeshift 6DOF controller really works just yet—the kit doesn’t ship until April 12th—but I’m happy to give credit to this creative approach which  embodies what Nintendo is trying to do with Labo in the first place: give kids opportunities to learn and be inventive through play.

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  • Ted Joseph

    If this was the only VR on the market I would pick it up, but Oculus, Vive, Microsoft, are now miles ahead of holding cardboard in front of your face trying to play while your arm starts to get sore…. I will pass…

    • VR5

      If you’re serious about VR, I kind of agree with you. But most people don’t even know yet that they might be interested in VR. They don’t know yet why they would want VR.

      So it’s unlikely that they will spend a lot of money just to try VR. Best bet is to sell them an add-on. If you have a PS4, get a PSVR. If you have a VR ready PC, get a Rift or Vive (Windows XR has bad tracking from what I hear). If you have a Switch, get Labo VR.

      Labo VR is priced like a game, a cheap one if you get the basic pack ($40), an expensive one if you get the full pack ($80). That makes it a very attractive option for trying VR. Switch is one of the fastest selling consoles in history, that’s a large audience to sell VR to.

      Labo VR is great for VR because it can introduce VR to the Nintendo audience. That’s a pretty big audience so that’s good news.

  • That’sright

    Cheap gimmicks like this will reuin VR

    • Ian Shook

      Well it’s aimed at kids, so really it might inspire them to get into VR even more.

    • VR5

      How will it ruin VR? This is affordable, fun and clever. Affordable means lot of people will get to try it. Fun means they will enjoy their first VR experience. And clever means they will come back for more.

    • Jake Richardson

      Its comments like this that will ruin vr.

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    • impurekind

      This isn’t some shoddy implementation of VR that will give people a terrible experience and leave them disillusioned with the tech; it’s not some $5 throwaway crap you’d find in the local convenience store that barely even functions. I think people like you are truly missing what Nintendo is doing/achieving here with this entry level VR concept. It’s cheap but the quality of execution is there, and the experience for anyone just trying VR for the first time will likely be one that actually excites them about the potential of the medium going forward. And for anyone that’s already a VR convert and likely has a higher-end VR headset already, it’s not something that needs to be worried about. The marketing for this particular VR concept is very clear so there’s not much chance of it poisoning the well as people will know exactly what they’re getting into imo.

  • Foreign Devil

    yeah that looks REAL comfortable.

  • doug

    The Labo dev lab must be full of incredible talent. I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t amazingly creative.

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