In Super Mario Kart, cartoon drivers zoom around a track littered with interactive objects. Some boost a player's speed, others hijack steering, and many can be launched at competitors. Four interns at Waterloo Labs grew up playing the game, so when someone suggested making a real-world version, they couldn't resist. "We weren't entirely sure how we were going to do it," says intern Tim Lynch, "but we said, 'Okay, we need to do this.' "
Re-creating the game's interactivity meant that objects on the track had to communicate with speeding go-karts. At first, the team thought of using passive, close-range radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. The interns tested that idea by tossing their ID cards at a security scanner to see whether the embedded chips transmitted a signal fast enough. "That didn't work," says Humphrey Huang. Next, they tried an active, self-powered RFID system. It cost an extra $500 but could transmit signals as far as 30 feet away, allowing each kart to interact with objects via its own RFID reader.
The interns' biggest hurdle: overriding the kart's controls. "We needed to be able to fight against someone trying to turn the wheel," says Lynch. They eventually selected powerful pneumatic pistons, which they attached to the chassis using zip ties, duct tape, and braces. When a driver captured or collided with an item, a reader would send that item's unique ID to the computer, which, in turn, ordered pistons, valves, or servomotors to swerve, stop, or speed up the kart [see "How It Works," next page].
They tested the hacked kart in the park's garage, tossing plush toys embedded with RFID tags at the vehicle and watching it respond like a living creature. Then—with the track manager's approval—they modified three other racers and added pneumatic cannons so that drivers could fire kart-crippling toys at competitors.
On game day, Huang, Lynch, Dylan Caswell, and Peter Gaylor raced, crashed, and futilely tried to prevent their carts from careening into the railing when RFID-tagged toys took over the controls. Lynch learned to steer with his knees while grabbing objects from the track and loading them into his cannon. Huang shot a plush turtle shell across the track at Caswell, triggering the RFID system in his kart and jamming the brakes. "We were doing lap after lap and thinking, 'It's actually working,' " says Lynch. " 'We're actually playing Mario Kart.' "
The red shell slows down a driver and jams steering. Air pistons attached to the front wheel's tie rods lock it in place, while another piston depresses the brake pedal.
A driver who captures a green shell can stuff it into an air cannon and then launch it toward an opponent to fully stop his kart.
Plastic bananas cause one tie-rod piston to contract and another to expand, forcing the front wheels to the right on the left-aiming track. "We figured that would be most perilous," says Hunter Smith, Waterloo Labs' internship coordinator.
Normally, a spring prevents the throttle lever from opening more than 85 percent. The RFID tag in the plush mushroom, however, triggers a servomotor to pull on the lever—enabling the driver to reach speeds nearing 35 mph.
The lucky driver who grabs a plush star temporarily earns a fully opened throttle, while his Wi-Fi–equipped controller orders all other karts to brake.
(Get the specifics of the project on the next page)
AWESOME - just checked out their website too. They need to put these in amusement parks.
While totally awesome, I wonder about a vehicle design where you reach your hand out of the vehicle to tire level while racing others nearby, to grab something. That's gonna be a nutcrakker. Can't be insured. Gotta make a mechanical scoop or claw or something. Also, firing things at others or driving over things; which then affects user control unexpectedly. The idea is fantastic-and would likely be very popular anywhere, but some real safety backups will need to be made. It's Mariokart, not Deathrace. Me? HELL YES I'D RACE ONE. My kids? As if I'd let them.
--Mechanical scoop or claw--Vacuum scoop. As for the safety vs unexpected driving characteristics, a start might be full motorcycle body armor. Expensive? Yes. But well worth it if you can then get insurance.
Looking at the pic again, the little motor on the outside of your cannon could be moved, and the tube made to rotate out and down with a sleeve on the tube primary section to sukk up stuff to fire. If it's made to rotate down for only a short time you won't smash up as many tubes. And no one need take a hand from the wheel just as someone else hits them with a banana.
Couldn’t this all be done much more convincingly with augmented reality? You could keep control system over-ride stuff, but remove the physical firing cannons and pick-up-items. Items, picked up and fired, would be digital. You could even add in some animations for explosions as items hits karts… Princess would be waving to you from the sideline.
It could be done with augmented reality but then the price tag just jumped up to a tens of thousands of dollars.
This is a far simpler and cheaper way of testing and proving concept.
Why not combine it w/ an occulus rift? just mount some camera's to the rift and add all the objects by painting them over the actual video footage in real time.
LOL. This is your basic FRC robot. The RFID though is very unique and cool. I would really like to see this in theme parks but it still needs a little bit of work. You need to make the design more elegant and easier to mass produce. There is also the safety concern. Maybe there could be a way where they don't actually ever have grabe the objects. They could drive under the boxes and the box will contain an RFID tag that will give them a power like the green shell then the computer can set an object preloaded into the cannon and fire that with the unique ID of what was in the box ie. the green shell. By combining some virtual elements into it but still keeping the feel of the game real you can achieve a fun and safe environment.
"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever." -Aristophanes
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn" - Alvin Toffler
While reading the article, I too was concerned about safety, and thought, like conjrr, of maybe using augmented reality.
In order to keep at least some of the game tangible, I had a similar idea as EnDeR Wiggin regarding the cannon. The cart cannon could use pre-loaded Nerf-style balls that could have their RFID tags programmed in-game based off of the mystery box that a driver passes. However, I don't think anyone would complain too much if this feature was replaced by augmented reality as well. I think the greatest enhancement to the Mario Kart experience would simply be to actually drive a cart.
I also agree with Bagpipes100. I think technologies such as Oculus Rift have made augmented reality financial feasible for something like this.
I know that's a long-winded way of saying I agree, but I think its important to note when innovators think alike.
If I ever have the money for a GoKart place, I'm totally doing a version of this and giving you guys free passes.
just before I checked out the bill of exchange of $5122, I did not believe that...my... brothers friend was actualey receiving cash part-time from there new portable computer.. there dads pal has been doing this for beneath fifteen months and recently cleard the morgage on their appartment and bourt a brand new Ford Focus. we have a tendency to looked here...... www.bay95.com
These guys are awesome.
I have a project to develop this in real-life with augmented reality glasses. See it here
and please vote to support it !!
This is our chance for all of us to experience it for real :D