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Plenty of people have had a go at recreating a classic in real life, numerous viral videos are floating online with people attempting to homage their favorite games. Although imaginative, most don’t live up to the real thing leaving us with nothing more than a giggle whilst we scroll through social media. Undoubtedly this is because things are often left best to the professionals In the case of Mario Kart that would be Nintendo. The giants at Japan’s Super Nintendo world have recently built a full-on augmented reality attraction and launched an official R/C car with mixed-reality tracks. The latter of which costs around $100. But just because the pro often does things best doesn’t mean we still can’t try.

One such dreamer is Ian Padgham who has constructed his own closed course to navigate with his ride-on lawnmower. And for that authentic in-game perspective, he has enlisted a self-flying drone.

Mario Kart In Real Life
First Place. Imagec redit: theverge.com

Sadly, the independent filmmaker isn’t actually playing the game itself. The video he has uploaded is simply his Skydio drone footage that follows his journey around his course. The CG added in post-production is what gives it the Mario Kart touches we are all familiar with. Without that, it would just be someone riding around. But he says the technology is currently available to throw something together that would allow you to play a functional version of Mario Kart IRL. In an interview for The Verge, Sean Hollister shared that Ian found the task simple enough as he already had pretty stable footage. It was simply a case of running it through After Effects and Cinema 4D. He had to work on the tracking and topographically map the property where the track was located. Although he spoke modestly about his work he said that he believes a talented programmer could pair a headset and self-flying drone to bring the game to life. He might be right if we consider the following;

  • 1. In a previous Skydio 2 review at The Verge the technology was proven to be very effective at following users without crashing. It has clearly come a long way since its initial development. As the drone is self-driving, the user could focus on steering their lawnmower without worrying about the drone at all.
  • 2. Drones have previously been paired with PV headsets successfully, allowing real-life to be experienced in a third-person perspective. True in this case the drone was flown behind the person whilst they walked around leaving them with an out-of-body sensation. But a self-driving option as we said would kick it up a notch and leave the user free to control a game. 
  • 3. We can overlay CG in the real world in real-time. Albeit within a narrow field of view, mixed-reality headsets like the Microsoft Hololens are pretty convincing. Mario Kart wouldn’t be super-demanding in the CG department to recreate from the perspective of the drone. 
  • 4. The processing capabilities of drones such as the Skydio 2 are very efficient these days, enough to cope with the real-time necessity.
  • 5. We have also seen go-karts that can artificially slow. They could totally compensate IRL if they were struck by a virtual turtle shell.

So it is theoretically possible. All that would be required is for someone to marry the above into a real-life Mario Kart package. 

Although possible we won’t hold our breath Nintendo tends to like to stay in control of its franchises. Less of an ask would be for Skydio to launch an FPV headset. The company’s current focus is to create a smaller folding drone but a headset would make perfect sense and soon.

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