Amazing AR HACKS that push Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit TO THE LIMIT!

Hi, I’m Dan. Together with my partner, Saki, we run Playfool, a design studio with a mission to create opportunities that spark imagination and cultivate creativity through play.

As you’ve probably guessed, we’ve recently got our hands on Nintendo’s latest creativity-stimulating experience, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. Similar to LEGO Mario, Mario Kart Live brings Mario into the real world for you to create all sorts of courses right in your home.

Using AR marked gates, the game will magically transform any route you desire into a raceable track filled with various augmented obstacles and items. Impressive!

Nintendo’s actually provided all these AR marker designs online, but just printing them off is a bit lame. So we’re gonna do a little experimenting with these things and see if we can push their creative potential to the limit!

The box includes 4 gates and 2 arrows, each with a unique AR marker on their front and back.

So the game can recognise 10 different markers in total. The tracking’s pretty good, but if you move too quick, there’s a bit of lag. Also, while they respond quite well to distance, if you rotate them too much about any axis, they peace out pretty quick, so unfortunately we can’t make the arrows point straight up or down.

In terms of rendering, it can actually manage all 4 gates and 2 arrows simultaneously. However, while only one gate can be displayed at a time, for the arrows, we found it’s possible to display up 8 stably. Though any more than that and things get a bit messy.

Testing rendering limit of the game’s AR.

So for sure the AR’s limits slips us up a bit, but nonetheless let’s see what we can do to shake things up.

We’ll start with the gates, a big problem of them being how big they are. But what if we could shrink them down?

Well, we know things can resize in-game so just scaling down the AR marker should work right? And turns out, it does. Knowing this, we next designed a smaller cardboard gate which you can easily print and assemble. Due to their smaller size, they do cause a slight offset in the graphics, but hey now you can squeeze a course within 1 sq meter so who’s complaining!

Original gate and our simplified mini gate.

So we’ve messed with the size but what else can we do? Well, by distorting the AR marker’s shape, we can trick the game to render it at an angle. Similarly, we can distort it in a way to make this sort of 3D illusion arrow, which can only be seen from a certain position.

Distorting the AR markers.

Another really neat thing you can do is make sort of arrow wand, which harnesses the game’s rendering lag to produce some truly magical and raving results.

Effect caused by our arrow wand.

But what’s that? No printer you say? No problem! Not only do the markers work just as well on a screen, if you add a little animation, you can create some really cool results like this arrow that switches or this banzai billboard.

Creating animated signs.

You can also go really low-tech and just draw the markers. As long as it roughly looks the same, the game should be able to pick it up, you can even use different colours!

Hand drawn AR markers.
Baking some AR marker cookies!

Now that we’ve shown how you can alter the size, shape and even material of the AR markers, you can make an awesome course like this!

Area 1: Grasslands
Area 2: Beach
Area 3: Sweet Sweet Canyon

As always, we’ve linked our files here, including the mini gates, giant gates and much, much more. We hope you’ll try em’ out and shift your play into OVERDRIVE!

If you want to watch the whole process and the course, check out our YouTube & follow our Twitter / Instagram for more Playfool-ness!

Co-founder @studioplayfool. Co-creator of @itsalivegame