Review: Nintendo’s Labo Kits for the Switch Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

It’s not every day that I get to spend an entire afternoon building a piano from scratch. But that’s exactly what happened this past Monday as I spent time digging into Nintendo’s Labo variety pack for the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo unveiled its do-it-yourself Labo activity bundles earlier this year ahead of their official launch on April 20. Labo kits allow Switch owners to create handmade playful accessories for their console by folding and fastening cardboard pieces together. The concept sounds simple, but these playsets may very well be among the storied gaming company’s most creative products yet.

The variety pack I tried includes supplies for making five different types of accessories, which Nintendo calls Toy-Cons, named after the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. In this $69.99 kit, you’ll find cutouts for making a remote-controlled car, a fishing rod, a motorbike, a house, and a piano. A slightly more expensive $79.99 Labo kit lets you build a wearable backpack and visor for controlling a robot on-screen.

But what’s most interesting about Labo isn’t necessarily how the cardboard toys come together, but what you can actually do with them once they’re assembled. Labo’s functionality depends entirely on how the Joy-Con remotes and Switch tablet cooperate with each other — and it’s not in the way you might expect a traditional controller and game console to work together.

In many cases, the Joy-Con serves as the eyes that make it possible for the Switch to see what’s going on when you’re playing with a Toy-Con. Take the piano, for example. Each piano key is marked with a sticker that becomes visible to the Joy-Con’s IR motion camera whenever that key is pressed, telling the Switch which note it should play. You can insert different pegs into the piano that prompt it to trigger different sound effects when the instrument is played. One such peg, for example, turns each musical note into a cat’s meow.

Read more: Inside HQ Trivia’s Intense Question-Writing Process

The house Toy-Con works in a similar fashion. Inserting different blocks into the house’s frame prompts changes to occur in the virtual room being displayed on the Switch’s screen. A new item will often appear in the space depending on which block you insert and where — once again thanks to the Joy-Con’s stickers. The controller is cleverly positioned in the chimney, giving its IR camera a bird’s eye view of the home’s interior. As such, …read more

Source:: Time – Technology


Save America’s nuclear power plants

The United States still has the largest network of nuclear power plants in the world — bigger even than France, which gets about three-quarters of its power from nuclear. But the U.S. nuclear supply is shrinking fast. Plants constructed during the building spree in the 1960s and ’70s are being retired as they reach the end of their planned operating lifespan, while they simultaneously come under powerful price pressure from natural gas and ever-cheaper renewables. Recently the utility FirstEnergy announced plans to shut down three nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, following an announcement from Exelon that it would close the Three Mile Island plant next year.

This is bad. Whatever you think of nuclear power, it is still the largest zero-carbon portion of our existing energy infrastructure. We should wring every last kilowatt out of that infrastructure until renewables (or perhaps future superior nuclear tech) are ready to take up the slack. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions should be an overriding goal for all energy policy.

Now, that is not to say that we should prioritize building new nuclear power plants. Contrary to the stereotype of nuclear being blocked by dimwitted environmentalists, the big problem with constructing nuclear power is that it is stupendously expensive and complicated, and American institutions — whether they’re public or private — have developed severe problems with executing that type of project. Indeed, recent construction on a reactor in South Carolina got so over budget and behind schedule that it bankrupted the contractor Westinghouse and the whole thing was abandoned. (That’s just one of many such stories.)

Additionally, the American nuclear industrial and regulatory framework could badly stand an overhaul. Nuclear technology has advanced considerably over the past 40 years, but the existing overall nuclear system of technology, plants, and regulators hasn’t been changed much over that time. Nuclear reprocessing (taking spent nuclear fuel and running it through a procedure to extract more useable isotopes) is worth examining, as it would produce a lot of fuel and sharply cut high-level waste (which takes hundreds of thousands of years to decay into safe material) at the cost of a lot more low-level waste (which only takes hundreds of years). Most promisingly, advanced reactors using thorium and other materials are theoretically vastly superior to existing nuclear designs. It would probably take billions upon billions of dollars to spin up an entire …read more

Source:: The Week – Tech


Google Just Launched a Smartphone Game to Teach Adults How to Code

From programmable LEGO robots to mobile apps like Hopscotch, there’s no shortage of games and toys designed to get children interested in computer science. But when it comes to adults, the options to learn how to code start to look a lot less like fun and a lot more like classwork.

Over the past nine months, Google has been trying to change that through Grasshopper, a mobile game meant to teach adults the basic principles of coding. Although five thousand people have already graduated from Grasshopper’s JavaScript Fundamentals course while the app has been in testing, the search giant is revealing it and making it publicly available for the first time on Wednesday. The game is launching for iOS and Android out of Area 120, Google’s internal workshop for experimental projects.

Read more: How This Former Circus Performer is Turning Google Maps Into the Next Big Thing in Gaming

When developing Grasshopper, Google focused on three main barriers making it hard for adults to learn to code: Time, access, and money. The first point is particularly vital — when Google asked thousands of U.S. adults why they had given up on coding, the top answer was that they ran out of time, says Laura Holmes, founder of Grasshopper and a senior product manager at Google. Turning coding lessons into something more like a smartphone game makes them easier to fit into a busy schedule, she says. “Many of our users actually find spare moments when they’re sitting on the couch unwinding after work or in bed at night,” says Holmes. “They’re using those moments to learn how to code.”

Most people interested in learning how to code are hoping to do so to further their career, says Holmes, citing a survey of current Grasshopper users. It’s not difficult to understand why: LinkedIn’s list of the top job skills for 2018 was filled with abilities like mobile development, cloud computing, and data engineering, and in 2017, PayScale and CNN listed “mobile app developer” as the best job in America.

Google’s puzzle game won’t turn you into a programming wiz overnight. But by introducing players to the basic fundamentals through JavaScript, it may help them decide whether coding is a viable career switch for them. That’s why Google is also partnering with Coursera and LaunchCode to help players who want …read more

Source:: Time – Technology