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Plugged In

Texas gamers build real-life Mario Kart

Plugged In

It’s one of the best-selling video game franchises in the world, but what if you could play Mario Kart for real?

A group of Texas gamers/engineers from Waterloo Labs decided to give it a go, and the results are pretty amazing. This real-life Mario Kart racing track features actual power-ups, including mushrooms, lightning bolts and even those pesky turtle shells.

Let’s back up a little. The power-ups are a bit different than what you’ll find in the video game: racers pick up RFID tags, which communicate with the kart’s onboard computer and an array of servos and pneumatics.

That computer has control over the kart’s speed and brakes, so when racers choose to activate the power-ups, they either gain the appropriate advantage themselves or their opponents suffer a disadvantage. For example, racers who pick up a mushroom power-up get a real speed boost, while those who are lucky enough to drive snag a lightning bolt can engage the brakes on their opponent’s kart.

And since Mario Kart just isn’t Mario Kart without turtle shells, each kart comes equipped with a 120 psi cannon that can launch green turtle shells at other racers, causing them to wipe out.

As if this technological marvel wasn’t cool enough, the creators have posted a detailed look at how it was done and made the software that runs the system open-source, meaning anyone with a little engineering knowledge (and a few spare kart racers) can make their own home grown version of the game.

Mario Kart isn’t the first video game people have turned into a real world event. Pac-Man, most famously, was converted into a virtual-reality event in Singapore many years ago. New Yorkers recreated their own version of the game a few years later, calling it Pac-Manhattan.

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