Real Life Mario Karts React To Launchable Items


The team over at Waterloo Labs reasserts their reputation for creativity with this real life Mario Kart project. One of the team members must work at Austin’s Park because they seem to have had free rein when it comes to modifying the go-karts and filming the delightful video presentation found after the break.

It’s one thing to put on some costumes and head off to the go-kart track. It’s another to modify the vehicles to react to items launched by another rider. You can see the painted PVC launcher hardware to the right of each driver. By stuffing a plush item (banana, star, mushroom, etc.) in the barrel the driver can use compressed air to launch it quite a distance. Inside of each item is an RFID tag. When the RFID reader on a kart detects the tag it can take control of the steering, brake pedal, or speed limiter to inflict the appropriate actions.

If you don’t have this kind of insider access to your local go-kart track don’t fret. You just need to build your own set of karts.

24 thoughts on “Real Life Mario Karts React To Launchable Items

    1. @Tom There seems to be an inverse relationship between selectivity and reliability when it comes to streaming media download extensions/tools. Whenever I have a problem I just move down the selectivity spectrum, from Unplug (don’t have to play the video to get the download link), to Netvideohunter (have to play the video to get the download link), to Replay media catcher (downloads and saves all streaming video sources played while activated). One of them should take care of it.

    1. Although there is truth to your statement any properly designed launcher is unlikely to fail catastrophically (running them way under pressure), granted these are liable to be in a collision which would possibly lead to there failure. A measure of caution would be to wrap them in denim or another material to prevent shards from being thrown.

    2. There’s about 10,000 things here that would make that facilities insurance company crap themselves. Hanging objects and cables, intentionally crashing karts, taking control out of the participants hands, no safety gear, plushies finding their way into the mechanics, etc. I wouldn’t think too hard on it… it’s obviously a just-for-giggle project.

      What I’d like to know is, why don’t the rfid readers trip for the kart you’re using the item from?

      1. One of the guys mentioned that all the carts talk to each other. From there it would be a simple as the first cart to interact with a tag then puts that tag into an armed state, and the next cart to read the tag then has the tag’s related actions imposed upon itself.

    3. Every time a pneumatic device is built from PVC a person like you moans in the comment section. You don’t explain why. You don’t offer suggestions for what you’d think a more appropriate material would be. You just moan. It’s worthless. And it stops nobody from building them.

      So, please, take the energy you spend being a vigilant anti-pressurized PVC moaner, and do something that’s more likely to make a difference. Something like creating a video presentation explaining and demoing catastrophic failure. Or a video on building a similar device using materials that will keep others like you from moaning. Or, just stop commenting.


      1. I have posted multiple times about why PVC and compressed air is a very bad idea. I’m sorry you don’t want to hear it but that doesn’t invalidate my concerns. Just use a metal pressure vessel, it isn’t hard or expensive.

  1. That looks like wicked fun! Good job.

    If the insurance companies would spoil the fun as Dave suggests, perhaps it could be implemented as augmented reality. But I like, and think the Waterloo has done an excellent job of, implementing it completely in the physical realm.

  2. rI would love to find a cheaper long range rfid system. The one there using looks like it’s 500 for the reader and 35 for the tags. I would like one that can read from ten feet away and be under 100 for the reader. I might just have to see if I can make it. I

  3. I think this would work even better if they would replace the physical objects with virtual ones using augmented reality. Then they could just place RFID tag on the track with a reader under the kart. this way the racer would just have to run over an “object” as it appears in their glasses or HUD… maybe a tablet and camera system could be used to.

  4. I thought you could do something similar using augmented reality. You would ‘see’ the shells etc flying around the track as long as the system knew where you were on the track & where you were looking but they wouldn’t really exist & so wouldn’t be dangerous. All the other stuff, such as how to take over the control of the cars etc could be built exactly as shown here.

    The most important thing they missed out here is adding some nox in to the engine if you successfully powerslide round a corner.

  5. This is a very interesting project.
    As a manufacture of karting equipment we have an actual real product to create a mario-kart like experience. It includes kart-to-kart communication, picking up boosts, user interfaces and so on.
    What we have left out is controlling the steering, as we have customers which are running their kart up to 80 km/u which can be almost lethal when running in a wall.

    In case someone is interested please contact us at

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