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It’s unlikely Nintendo knew what a hit they had on their hands when releasing the very first Mario Kart title back in 1992. Since then, the series has gone on to be one of the company’s most consistently popular and best-selling properties.

In the 22 years the series has been around, fans have played it on the Super NES, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64, DS, 3DS, Wii, and Wii U. And now, Mario Kart is serving as inspiration for a couple of inventors who’re making a similar game that you can play with robots on your living room floor, complete with weapons and power-ups.

Inventors Ken Kawamoto and Tomoaki Akitomi are currently at work on their RomoCart project, which utilizes the iOS-controlled Romo educational robot (which sells for around US $150 on Amazon). Generally, “educational” is one of the less exciting adjectives you can modify “robot” with (“giant” and “killer” are both much more satisfying), but Kawamoto and Akitomi have figured out an awesome use for the Romo by transforming it into a racing machine.

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Kawamoto and Akitomi developed an app dubbed Romote, which wirelessly relays commands from a PC to the iPhone docked in the Romo. By combining this with a game controller, they’re now able to drive the robot, steering, accelerating, and stopping on the fly.

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The RomoCart rig makes use of two more pieces of hardware, a motion-sensing camera and projector, both mounted on the ceiling. Together, they track the Romo, and even provide effects like a trail of dust flowing behind it.

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But what good is a vehicle without a track? The system can also detect objects you’ve laid out on the floor, and automatically designs a circuit that weaves around them.

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▼ It even adds grassy textures to the final product.

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Coolest of all though, is how players can use classic Mario Kart power-ups.

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▼ OK, they’re missiles, not turtle shells, but they work the same way.

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When your opponent comes into contact with a weapon you’ve fired, his controller gets overridden, causing his Romo to stop and spin in a circle as you zoom ahead.

▼ Fast-reacting players can block missiles with their actual feet, though.

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There’s also a way to win by speeding yourself up instead of slowing your rival down. The system can create speed burst patches that’re activated by driving over them, kicking your machine into double speed and allowing you to see the victory fireworks that much sooner.

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The inventors say they plan to release the RomoCart source code once it’s finalized. For now, we’d say they’re well on their way to achieving their goal, to “make the living room a little more exciting.”

▼ At least for everyone who’s still awake

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Source: RomoCart official website
Images: YouTube