Mario Kart For Reals (Video)

Posted April 20, 2013 by Johnny2x in Entertainment

I don’t think anyone would argue that Mario Kart is one of the greatest video games ever. It was a game that brought everyone together. It is something you could play with you friends OR family.

Using some of the latest RFID and engineering technology a young group of interns (NERDS) from Waterloo Labs have created a Mario Kart track IRL at Austin Park just outside of Austin Texas.

The nerds transformed go-carts don’t just look like the well know “Karts” from the popular game but they also react to the hazards your competitors can throw down on you.

If you want a bigger video (size DOES matter) scroll down.

We as fellow nerd at commend you Waterloo Labs interns!

Here is how the power ups work. Check out the full story at


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.


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.


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].

– read more


Hacking go-karts into the racecars of the Mario Kart videogame series was no simple feat. Four interns from Waterloo Labs began with standard four-stroke-engine vehicles and added components such as ruggedized cRIO computer controllers, Wi-Fi routers, and RFID readers.

Compressed air fed into a PVC pipe can blast a plush toy at competitors as far as 30 feet away.

Zip ties, brackets, and other removable hardware made all modifications reversible.

A 3,000psi paintball tank stores 48 cubic inches of air to charge add-on pistons.

A suite of gadgets can detect the RFID codes of objects on the track and then control the kart.

A 130psi air piston attached to each tie rod can steer a kart off-course.

A valve can depress the brake pedal by directing high-pressure air into a piston.

Time: 8 weeks
Cost: $1,200

WARNING: We review all our projects before publishing them, but ultimately your safety is your responsibility. Always wear protective gear, take proper safety precautions, and follow all laws and regulations.

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About the Author


John created the just because he cares about each and everyone of you. He likes science, technology, movies, and music. He also likes long walks in the park but only at night and in most dangerous park he can find AND he discovered the internet while playing in his back yard as a child. Some of this is true and some of it is not.


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