Not too long ago in New York City's Central Park, developer Abhishek Singh was walking past a man walking his dog. As Singh approached, the man with the dog cautiously walked past. As Singh was entirely decked out in a Super Mario costume—complete with with blue overalls, a red shirt, and a red cap,—it's possible he was worried Singh might mistake his poor dog for a goomba.
But no, Singh was up to something much more cool and much less crazy. His Italian plumber outfit was topped off with a Microsoft HoloLens on his face, which was showing him a first-person, three-dimensional, augmented reality version of the first level of the 1985 video game Super Mario Bros. Singh personally designed this recreation using the Unity toolset over the course of a month. He shared the video with UploadVR earlier today, taking care to point out that the video below is unedited. We're seeing what he was seeing.
Other developers have brought Super Mario Bros. to the HoloLens before, but usually they've been concerned with making the base game playable without a traditional screen or making Mario bounce around on household objects. Singh's creation, a 360-foot-long real-world recreation of the game's first level, is much more marvelous.
Singh jumps up at the appropriate empty spaces above him, and hidden coin boxes appear and give a little jingle. He flicks his white-gloved fingers and fireballs bounce out to wallop approaching koopa troopas. He even stomps goombas and gobbles down mushrooms.
The quirks of augmented reality may prevent him from running up the level's blocky stairwells or descending into green pipes, but it feels real nonetheless, even if he's largely limited to walking around obstacles. Occasionally it's kind of brilliant, such as when he strolls into the castle at the end of the level and hoists the flag there in victory. The princess, naturally, is in another castle.
That lack of stair interaction wasn't due to a lack of trying, as Singh said in an email to Motherboard.
"[Making the stairs interactive] would require me to essentially recreate the basic physical structures in the real world and then overlay the holograms on them, allowing me to climb stairs while still maintaining the aesthetic of Mario," he said. "I decided that was probably a little too much work to manage in Central Park."
Translating Super Mario Bros. into augmented reality, as it turns out, was challenging enough. "For this large level, which spanned over 110 meters, I had to split the entire level into smaller sections," he said. "Eventually I split it into about 23 sections which then had to be perfectly aligned and anchored in the real world so that the entire level still played properly as a whole. Also, since I wanted people of different heights to be able to jump and actually hit the bricks, I had to have a height adjusting system built into the game, which would readjust and calibrate the level to the players' heights."
Singh says he's undecided as to whether he wants to make more Super Mario levels or work on something else. "I was thinking I might create some of the underground levels in NYC subways if that doesn't get me in trouble," he said. "I am considering some other games; I got a few suggestions to recreate Doom and other first person shooters perhaps. However, the HoloLens isn't necessarily designed for such large outdoor gameplay, so it does require a lot of tweaks."
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