Nintendo Labo: programming a song with Toy-Con Garage

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In recent weeks on YouTube, Nintendo has made fun of what you can do with Labo, the DIY cardboard accessories kit for Switch, which comes out this Friday. One of the most intriguing videos was a demonstration of Toy-Con Garage, the programming platform within the Labo software. Using the toy piano included in the Variety Kit, an improvised cardboard guitar and multiple controllers (including one attached to some Crocs), Nintendo showed a band of Labo.


There are some really creative use cases for Toy-Con Garage, many of which allow possibilities similar to those of Rube Goldberg. But using Switch as a tool for music production seemed to be one of Labo's most practical and promising features, so I decided to try it for myself. One of the biggest challenges was finding a song that was simple enough to play on the limited number of keys on the toy piano, and also using minimal guitar chords, since you would have to program each note individually. I chose "Rainbow Connection" from the movie Muppets because I naively thought it would be easy. It was not easy. It was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life, and it is possible that I concentrated more on this than on my real SAT.
Toy-Con Garage works with a series of input and output nodes. You can set your input (for example, a touch bar) and connect it to an output node (in our case, make a guitar sound). The inputs and outputs are highly customizable: you can configure them so that a part of the screen lights up when you wave a controller or vibrate a blue controller when the infrared camera of the red controller detects an IR tag. You can also make the outputs depend on multiple entries, which was the part with which I had more difficulties.
Changing the chords on a real guitar is easy. Changing chords in a switch requires more calculations and planning, since you have to individually program each note in each chord, and then assign each chord to a button in the controller, which is a separate input. With "Rainbow Connection", I had to program eight different chords, with six notes per chord. That's a lot of nodes! Also, there is a lot of space that you have to work with, so you constantly moved the nodes accidentally while trying to program something else. The final result looked something like this:

A real nightmarePhoto by James Bareham / The Verge

Just as Apple's Swift Playgrounds do not really teach you how to program, Toy-Con Garage is a platform to teach kids about the code. Maybe I understand the concept of "if this, then, that", programming is better now, but even so, the only thing I can apply this knowledge is within Labo. And that's good! That is part of what Labo is about: trial and error, learning and experimentation.
I'm waiting for the future of Labo in the coming days. As the platform grows and more people have it in their hands, we can expect a growing community of creators who share their own codes for various projects and all the new discoveries they have made.


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