Readers of a certain age will no doubt remember some regional variation of TV Powww, the syndicated program that found viewers at home giving directions over the phone to an in-studio operator 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 remote Switches that offer up the AR overlay.
To accomplish the experience (which, Surrogate is quick to note, is in no way affiliated 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.
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 matters worse.
At very least, however, things have improved tremendously since the days of TV Powww.