Even the biggest Mario Kart fan may have reservations about traveling to Super Nintendo World in Japan in the midst of a global pandemic to experience the augmented reality-enhanced roller coaster ride that the game mimics in real life.
Fortunately, a video of the entire experience is now available to give fans a sense of the scope of the AR experience, along with a closer look at the AR headset that makes the experience possible.
Super Nintendo World, officially opened on February 4, is a mini-park embedded at Universal Studios in Osaka City, Japan (a bit like Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World and Disneyland). The AR ride in question is called “Mario Kart Bowser̵
The AR headset that displays the virtual content for the ride actually comes in two parts. Each rider in the row receives the visor and adjustable headband, then attaches the reflective display when entering the car. Multiple displays in the queue guide riders through the process using Mii avatars.
As the ride travels along rails, each rider in the four-person car has a steering wheel that acts as a controller for the experience. Trigger buttons allow players to fire virtual projectiles and digital characters, while the steering wheel is used to collect coins and items as the ride progresses.
Images from the AR experience reveal a chaotic and cacophonic match that is very faithful to the game in many ways. Turtles fly across the rider’s field of vision as Mario, Luigi and other familiar characters from the game race forward and recognizable tracks unfold before you. There is even a Blooper attack, where squid ink envelops the screen. The action unfolds along with the ride’s practical set dressing.
We also get a sense of some of the limitations of the AR headset. The headset appears to have a narrow field of view, similar to the HoloLens or Magic Leap 1. The AR content also appears to be produced with a reflective approach, similar to the Lenovo Mirage AR headset, rather than using environmental tracking.
On the other hand, the video also shows near-universal adherence to mask-wearing protocols (despite the sometimes uncovered nose). Nonetheless, this experience is all indoors and up close, so any skepticism is well-founded.
However, we now at least have a good idea of how the experience works for when fans of Mario Kart and / or augmented reality can drive safely.