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See a Real-Life Mario Kart Race Complete With RFID Bananas, Power-Ups

What Mario Kart fan hasn’t secretly dreamed of playing a real-life version of the Mario Bros-themed racing game? But while most people would be content with renting regular go-karts and using their imaginations really, really hard, two Texas engineers, Hunter Smith and Ben James, decided to make the dream a reality by creating an ingenious live-action version of the Mario Bros-themed racing game.

Where things really get amazing, however, are the RFID-embedded power-up item boxes suspended over the track by pieces of rope, which allow the player to collect items like bananas and turtle shells modeled on the original Mario Kart game – and actually affect their performance in the race. The mushroom item, for example, wirelessly activates tiny Servo motors that enable go-karts to speed up by accessing 100 percent of their throttle power.

“Ben and I grew up playing Mario Kart on Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 so we’re both big fans,” Smith, the co-founder of Austin Texas-based Waterloo Labs, told Wired. We got the idea for the real-life Mario because we work with First Robotics Competition and they use same controller, software and motors. We got a few extra kits so we asked ourselves ‘What can we do with these competition kits that would be fun?”

The system details and source code for the project are available on the Waterloo Labs website, which volunteers that while there is no permanent set-up for Real-Life Mario Kart for enthusiasts to visit, “we would be happy to help you build your own!”

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