Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit gets unofficial remote play on Surrogate.tv

Readers of a certain age will no doubt remember some region variation of TV Powww. The syndicated program, which found viewers at home giving directions over the phone to an in-studio operating playing an Intellivision game.

Perhaps the best-known variant is New York’s TV PIXXX, wherein the player would say “PIXX” (a reference to the station’s call letters), in hopes of winning a T-shirt or U.S. Savings Bond. The game was, famously, plagued with the sorts of technical and latency issues one might expect from such an enterprise.

Technology has, thankfully, come a long way since then. Live streaming and cloud gaming in particular have finally started coming into their own in recent years. Founded in 2017, Finnish service Surrogate.tv offers a clever twist on these verticals, offering remote play versions of games with physical elements. Things like pinball, robot fighting and claw machines feature prominently. Naturally, all of that makes Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit a perfect candidate for what the site offers.

Launched last week, Surrogate is currently offering users the chance to play the game remotely during a number of blocks throughout the week (keep in mind that human beings need to be present in-person on the other side). Using the service, four players at a time can control the RC karts, using feeds from the the remote Switches that offer up the AR overlay.

Image Credits: Surrogate

To accomplish the experience (which, Surrogate is quick to note, is in no way affiliate with Nintendo), the site emulated the Switch using the GitHub NSGadgetPi project, which is built with an Adafruit M0 microcontroller. Beyond that, each of the karts, meanwhile, requires the following, per Surrogate,

  • Nintendo Switch – To run the game.

  • Nintendo Mario or Luigi RC Kart – To be driven on the race track.

  • Raspberry Pi 4 – To run SurroRTG and Surrogate’s custom image recognition.

  • HDMI Capture Card – To capture the video feed.

  • USB Sound Card – To capture the sound.

Image Credits: Surrogate

It’s a fun way to experience the game without spending $99 on a kart (and four times that to get the full four-player in-person experience). Though, as anticipated, there are some lag issues, as a few of our staff members who have tried it out can attest. Getting the hang of it takes a few races, and that can eat up some serious time. Depending on when you play, the waiting list gets pretty long — and getting some press coverage will likely only make matter worse.

Image Credits: Surrogate

At very least, however, things have improved tremendously since the days of TV Powww.

#gaming, #mario-kart, #mario-kart-live-home-circuit, #techcrunch

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Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review

Text: Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review by Bryce Durbin [Image: drawing of Mario Kart car next to Nintendo Switch]
Text: Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a remote-controlled car connected wirelessly to the Nintendo Switch. It's available for $99.99 on October 16. The game it's played with is a free download. [Image: drawing of closeup of Mario Kart toy] Text: The car has a camera above Mario (or Luigi) so you can see from his point of view on the Switch screen. Augmented reality (AR) elements are overlaid on what you see for a reality-bending cart experience. [Image: drawing of in-game play in a living room]
Text: Players build the course using four gates and optional arrow signboards. I found the more complicated you make your course, the more challenging the game will be. [Image: A drawing of a simple race setup in a living room] Text: In one-player mode, you can race against the Koopalings in a Grand Prix, do a time trial, or make a custom course. As you play, you can unlock customizations to your kart. [Image: A drawing of an in-game image of Builder Mario]
Text: Obstacles include in-game mainstays like banana peels and bombs as well as whatever hasn't been swept out of the way of your custom-made course. [Image: In-game image of living room floor including real-life toys and in-game banana peel and bob-omb] Text: Most of the course themes will be familiar if you've played Mario Kart before... [Image: In-game image of Rainbow Road course]
Text: ...but each track I tested had surprises, such as a track styled after the original Super Mario Bros or a course that sometimes becomes mirrored. [Image: In-game drawing of World 1-1 with goomba being struck by kart] Text: It's a strange and delightful game experience. Without the AR layer, it's just a relatively slow-moving RC kart. [Image: a drawing of the Mario Kart toy]
Text: I didn't have the opportunity to race against other real-life players in multiplayer mode. It requires each player to have their own additional car *and* Switch. [Image: Mario and Luigi racers, two Nintendo Switches]
Text: Overall, this is a novel toy that has replay value depending on how much time and space you want to to devote to making custom courses. [Image: dining room scene of child and Mario Kart race track]

 

#entertainment, #gaming, #hardware, #mario-kart, #mario-kart-live-home-circuit, #nintendo, #reviews, #tc

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Going in-depth with Nintendo’s augmented reality Mario Kart RC car

The toy industry has given us plenty of radio-controlled cars that are modeled after the Mario Kart franchise. But the $100 Mario Kart Life: Home Circuit, announced last month, promises to be the first to integrate such a toy car with an augmented reality camera and attendant Switch game experience.

While we haven’t gotten any hands-on time with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit yet, we were able to participate in a recent livestream demo of the RC car/AR app combo ahead of its planned October 16 release. What we saw doesn’t quite match up to a full-fledged Mario Kart game, but it looks like it could add a lot of creativity and imaginative play opportunities to the standard RC car experience.

On your mark…

The demo walked us through the Mario Kart Live setup process, which starts off by using the camera on the Kart to scan a QR code found on the free downloadable Switch app (that app won’t work at all without the Kart). With that scan, the Kart and Switch are connected directly via Wi-Fi, without the need for any router or live Internet connection.

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#gaming-culture, #mario, #mario-kart, #nintendo, #toys

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Nintendo’s new RC Mario Kart looks terrific

In a year, Nintendo would have demoed, in person, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. The company would have invited select members of the press into some rented event space and let us experience the game first-hand, like it had with Labo and Ring Fit Adventures. It’s 2020, however, and that’s just not how we do things.

Watching someone else play an RC game over teleconference software is not ideal. But it’s nothing if not extremely of the moment. And more importantly, it’s probably a testament to what Nintendo has built here that it translates so well with a less than ideal setup. Granted, I won’t feel comfortable offering a proper review until I’ve played the game on my Switch, but I can confidently say that Mario Kart Live makes for one hell of an impressive demo.

Image Credits: Nintendo

Like the recently released Mario Lego sets, this is the kind of toy that makes me jealous of kids today. It also, frankly, bums me out that I don’t have more space at home to lay out a track. I’ve heard it was a buyer’s market, so maybe I’ll go buy a house. Whatever the case, bringing Mario to a real-world RC car is one of those no-brainer ideas, and the execution looks great.

The game also finds Nintendo embracing augmented reality in a really convincing and clever way. We’ve seen some AR from the company, most notably in the form of Pokémon GO — which, to be fair, was more of a Niantic joint and, as plenty will happily point out, not really proper AR. And like that title, Nintendo worked closely with a third party. In this case, it’s the New York-state based Velan Studios, which was started by brothers Guha and Karthik Bala who also founded Vicarious Visions, an Albany-based game developer now owned by Activision.

“It started as an experiment by a small team at Velan,” the startup said in a blog post today. “Like many prototypes, the main goal was to “find the fun”. We built an RC car by kitbashing together drone parts, cameras, and sensors to create a unique thirdperson view driving experience. It gave us the exhilaration of speed and allowed us to see the world from a totally different perspective.”

Image Credits: Nintendo

The execution of Mario Kart Live is a perfect bit of synergy in that it leverages the Switch to really bring the whole thing to life — in a manner similar to what the company has already done with Labo and Ring Fit. Of course, much or most of the real magic here comes courtesy of the racer. Currently limited to Mario and Luigi (no word yet on additional characters), the cars feature both a camera for FPV on the Switch and all of the requisite sensors.

Nintendo declined to answer specific questions about the on-board sensors and other hardware, but one assumes depth-sensing plays a big role here. There’s no calibration out of the box. You can pretty much start it up and start driving around. Once you actually unfold and set up the three gates to create the circular course, however, that will require some driving to generate the lay of the land. Nintendo’s employed a clever graphic for that, with Lakitu dropping a bucket of paint the character drives over and tracks with his wheels.

Image Credits: Nintendo

The game also employs some clever physics, with game action impacting speed and steering. There’s a range of top speeds, from 50 to 200 cc. A demo stripped of AR shows how in-game elements impact the actual kart speed. Other elements, like the sudden occasional sand storm, cause the kart to drift to the sides. The game will also react, if, say, you crash it into a table leg — sending coins flying just as it would in a Mario Kart game.

On that note, the company tells me that the karts are quite robust, with a bumper that’s essentially designed to run into stuff. That shouldn’t cause any damage, given the top speeds here. Though the company notes that if, say, a heavy book falls on top of the kart after it jostled it loose from a shelf, that could ultimately be an issue. Nintendo says there will be a way to repair the karts, but offered no specifics on warranty.

Image Credits: Nintendo

Races can be played with up to four, though a kart is required to play. In fact, the actual game will be free to download from the Nintendo store, but is essentially worthless without a kart. Until that’s set up, the only thing you’ll be able to access is a game trailer. At the moment, the in-game opponents are just the Koopalings.

Image Credits: Nintendo

Like the karts themselves, however, it seems likely — or even certain — that the company will introduce additional characters down the road. Perhaps we can look for expansions along the lines of what the company has done with Smash Bros. Also, like Mario Maker, you can customize both your character and car for the in-game FPV AR overlays (though these won’t be visible to other players).

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit arrives October 16, priced at $100 a kart. You’ll need either a Switch or Switch Lite to play.

#gaming, #mario-kart, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch

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Nintendo’s latest trick is turning the Switch into an RC controller for an AR Mario Kart game

Nintendo never ceases to surprise with a seemingly infinite numbers of ways of transforming its most beloved IP. Hot on the heels of some truly impressive Super Mario Bros. Lego kits comes Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. The new toy is a clever mashup of real-life RC cars the Nintendo Switch.

Image Credits: Nintendo

The hybrid portable gaming system utilizes cameras on-board the Mario and Luigi karts to offer an on-screen augmented reality first-person racing experience. There’s a teaser video out now, highlighting the game just below:

As you can see, it offers a familiar Mario Kart feel overlayed on top of your home. There’s a pretty simple set up process involved, with the user spacing out a series of gates to create a circular course — think of it a like a far more fun version of setting up Roomba boundaries. Right now there are only two characters —Mario and Luigi — available for now, each priced at $100. But up to four players can compete with the in-person mode.

Image Credits:

From the videos, at least, it looks like a pretty rich experience right out of the box, combining real world obstacles with familiar characters and environments like snowy levels and Piranha Plant-filled jungles.

Each kits includes one racer, four gates and two sign boards. They go up for pre-order soon and start shipping October 16.

#augmented-reality, #gaming, #mario, #mario-kart, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch, #switch

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The finer points of Mario Kart 8 on the Switch, explained by a pro

Video produced by Jordin Rocchi, edited by Boris Khaykin. Click here for transcript.

A few months back, before COVID-19 upended life, we tried out a new video concept: we took a bunch of random folks and forced them to play Nintendo games in our science laboratory studio while we did science upon them filmed them talking about the games. The first video we got out of the experience covered Super Mario Bros., but we also had one more game on tap that day—Mario Kart 8.

In our new video, you can watch three different players, with three different levels of skill, power their way through Mario Kart 8 on Switch. We managed to scoop up a new player and a well-seasoned video game veteran to offer some commentary on how the game feels; and to provide some expert-level contrast, we also roped in speedrunner and Mario Kart record holder Amber_cxc. Amber_cxc also gives a good breakdown of the ins and outs of Mario Kart speedrunning, along with tips and hints on how to get faster in going around those crazy-ass tracks.

There are more War Stories videos in production, too, so if you’re looking for more deep dives into the challenges of making games, stay tuned—we’ve got them coming!

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#30-people-play, #ars-technica-videos, #gaming-culture, #mario-kart, #videos

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Unity’s IPO numbers look pretty … unreal?

Unity, the company founded in a Copenhagen apartment in 2004, is poised for an initial public offering with numbers that look pretty strong.

Even as its main competitor, Epic Games, is in the throes of a very public fight with Apple over the fees the computer giant charges developers who sell applications (including games) on its platform (which has seen Epic’s games get the boot from the App Store), Unity has plowed ahead narrowing its losses and maintaining its hold on over half of the game development market.

For the first six months of 2020, the company lost $54.2 million on $351.3 million in revenue. The company narrowed its losses compared to 2019, when the company lost $163.2 million on $541.8 million in revenue, and 2018 when the company lost $131.6 million on $380.8 million in revenue. As of June 30, 2020 the company had total assets of $1.29 billion and $453.2 million in cash.

Increasing revenue and narrowing losses are things that investors like to see in companies that they’re potentially going to invest in, as they point to a path to profitability. Another sign of the company’s success is the number of customers that contribute more than $100,000 in annual revenue. In the first six month of the year, Unity had 716 such customers, pointing to the health of its platform.

The company will trade on the NYSE under the single-letter ticker ‘U’. The NYSE only has a few single letters left to offer, although Pandora gave up the letter P when it was bought by Liberty Media back in 2018.

Unlike Epic Games, Unity has long worked with the major platforms and gaming companies to get their engine in front of as many developers and gamers as possible. In fact, the company estimates that 53 percent of the top 1,000 mobile games on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and over 50 percent of mobile, personal computer and console games were made with Unity.

Some of the top titles that the platform claims include Nintendo’s Mario Kart: Tour, Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp; Niantic’s Pokémon Go and Activision’s recent Call of Duty: Mobile are also Unity games.

The knock against Unity is that it’s not as powerful as Epic’s Unreal rendering engine, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making forays into industries beyond gaming – something that it will need to continue doing if it’s to be successful.

Unity already has a toehold in Hollywood, where it was used to recreate the jungle environment used in Disney’s Lion King remake (meanwhile, much of The Mandalorian was created using Epic’s Unreal engine).

Of course, Unity’s numbers also reveal that the size of its business is currently a bit smaller than its biggest rival. In 2019, Epic said it had earnings of $730 million on revenue of $4.2 billion, according to VentureBeat . And the North Carolina-based game developer is now worth $17.3 billion.

Still, the games market is likely big enough for both companies to thrive. “Historically there has been substantial industry convergence in the games developer tools business, but over the past decade the number of developers has increased so much, I believe the market can support two major players,” Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Ampere Analysis, told the Financial Times.

Venture investors in the Unity platform have waited a long time for this moment, and they’re certainly confident in the company’s prospects.

The last investment round valued the company at $6 billion with the secondary sale of $525 million worth of the company’s shares.

#activision, #app-store, #apple, #computing, #copenhagen, #disney, #epic-games, #fundings-exits, #gaming, #google-play-store, #liberty-media, #mario-kart, #niantic, #nintendo, #north-carolina, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #the-financial-times, #unity, #unreal, #unreal-engine, #venturebeat, #video-gaming

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