A big THANKS to each and every one of you!
You funded us... Real FX is happening.
One of our backers (Schoey) is setting up an independent forum, which I believe is planned to be up & running within a few days of the campaign finish, at: RealFXForum.com
Another of our backers (MattP) has started a Sub-Reddit for Real FX, where everyone can register to join in discussions: www.reddit.com/r/RealFXracing/
What is Real FX Racing?
- Radio control cars with Artificial Intelligence, for control never achieved before
- Slotless expandable, customisable track that sets up in seconds, not hours
- AI system gives super-rich features while racing, similar to video games
What's so good about it?
For the first time ever you can truly race against other players, or a ‘virtual opponent’ in the confines of your front room. Artificial Intelligence will assist you to stay on the track, but you need to use your skill to be the fastest driver in the race, overtake or undertake your opponents, deal with track hazards, from tire blowouts to oil spills, and comply with pit-stop call-ins.
And just like in video gaming, with RealFX you don't need another physical player in the room to still compete in a race. You simply add the second car, switch its handset to ‘Pace Car’ mode and race against it! It's Artificial Intelligence means it will drive around the track and compete against you!
Lightweight, affordable & patented '1-Sec-Connect' track segments click into place in less than1 second, allowing you to make a full size track layout in less than a minute - and take it down in the same time (well, usually even quicker). Go round chairs, under tables, or even from room to room.
Unlike slot racing, you are not ‘stuck in a rut’. With RealFX you are free to overtake or undertake other cars at any point on the track. Learn expert moves like power slides, and if you do take a corner too fast, or collide and spin off, you can just hit the ‘R/C’ button to switch into normal radio control mode, and drive straight back onto the track.
*Jack input accepts headphones
- Flexible, durable & lightweight printed race track segments. Available in either 'Starter Track' or 'Pro-Racing Track' sets.
- Track segments click together in less than1 second. Even adding time for moving around as you create your chosen track you can still complete the largest track in under 2 minutes!
- 'Starter Track' set includes 12 pieces of track that can be interlinked to create your own track designs. Includes Pit Lane, Starting Grid, Bends, Straights & Chicane. Total track length is approximately 6 m (20 ft)
- 'Pro-Racing Track' set includes 39 pieces of track, including Pit Lane, Starting Grid, Bends, Straights, Chicane as well as reverse bends. Total track length is approximately 16 m (52 ft). This set also includes a precision contoured flyover bridge & track extension pieces, to allow you to build a track layout with crossovers for the ultimate racing experience!
- Cars incorporate front & back opto-sensors that read the track in real time & communicate with their Smart Controller
- Cars are powered with readily available 3 x 1.5V AAA batteries. One set can power over 4 hours of racing
- Realistic scale speeds of up to 180 mph!
- 'Pistol Grip' style Smart Controllers
- Trigger for throttle (speed), and jog wheel for steering
- Smart Controllers communicate with your car & other players using wireless 2.4GHz, allowing dynamic pairing for multiple players without interference.
- Smart Controllers include audio for in-race announcements & game setup guidance, and multi-colour LEDs to indicate status.
How do you play with it?
- It's very easy to start racing, but takes skill & practice to perfect!
- User friendly voice menu & race announcements with multi-language audio (8 languages included: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Arabic, Japanese. Russian)
- RFX has 2 main play modes:
- Practice: It takes just seconds to start racing in this mode. Hone your skills. Race around the track & your Smart Controller will state your lap time to 1/100 of a second, and even announce when you set a new personal lap record. Your friends can practice at the same time & monitor their own performance.
- Championship: This allows you to add multiple players, in a race that lasts for a certain number of laps. You can either fully customise your race settings, select from pre-defined options, or 'replay last race'.
- Pressing the 'Pace Car' button allows you to use a second car as a ‘virtual opponent’ in either Practice or Championship mode.
- Real-time race events: In Championship mode you have the option to add race event simulations. There are several types:
- Track hazards (e.g. oil spill): An upcoming hazard will be announced by your Smart Controller. You need to adjust your driving style before hitting the hazard. The hazard is signalled by a sound effect, and your cars performance is temporarily altered.
- Pit-lane events (e.g. transmission failure): When your handset announces a pit lane event, you will hear a sound effect, and your cars performance will steadily drop until you enter & exit the pit lane.
- You can choose the frequency of race events in the race setup menu.
- You can also choose whether the hazards are 'random' (can happen to each player at any time in the race), or 'targeted'. When 'targeted' hazards have been chosen, you can use the numbered 'feature buttons' on your Smart Controller to attack an opponent at any point during the race & seize your moment to overtake!
Here are a few video clips showing some of the features of Real FX:
Pairing Car + Controller, and starting in Practice Mode
Setting up a Championship Race, and adding an additional player
Adding a virtual opponent using 'Pace Car' mode
A quick view of the 'flyover' accessory (included in the Pro Racing track set)
A short race!
Where can we go next?
- Think of this project like video games meets radio control, and it’s a bit like buying into a console system!
- Once you have bought into the 'system', you will be able to add stuff in future
- The car body shells are designed to be easily swapped – You could even make your own custom shells with 3D printing.
- The smart controller includes a memory slot that will allow you to load updated or completely new gameplay with different themes.
- Because the cars respond to real time reading & processing of track signals, we can release new track segment types or accessories.
- The communication system used will allow us to add enriched interaction with smart devices in the future (stay tuned).
How we got here...
The original concept for what has morphed into RealFX Racing was first conceived in 2004. Jim wanted to try and create a version of slot racing for the modern age. Jim, Mark & Dave spent the next 5 years working on the theory, and building a proof of concept prototype. In 2009 they lined up meetings with some of the Worlds biggest toy & radio control companies and presented their idea. It’s a tale we have heard many time before. The responses were a resounding WOW, but ultimately they wanted to see more finished product. We had no budget to do this. Big companies tend to have their marketing & development strategies set in stone several years out and often require finished proof of concepts. When confronted with an innovation that doesn’t look almost finished, the risk tends to be a step too far. Even leading slot car manufacturers, who saw the benefit of the system, weren’t sure how to market a slot car system that didn’t have a slot!
Since those early days, we have worked on a wide variety of projects, but development of what we now call ‘RealFX Racing’ has continued throughout.
In July 2010 we filed multiple patents, covering elements of the control system and track.
By 2011 we had created a version of the product which allowed cars to race around a roll-out track. The handsets controlled the cars via radio control on a 27 MHz frequency. We exhibited this prototype to US retailers in the Dallas Fall Preview that year, to a very enthusiastic audience of major companies. Our Sales Director was delighted at the size of the order book, but events took a further twist.
It has taken us almost three years to make the changes we wanted. We had to switch to using a 2.4 GHz communication system, so we had access to sufficient channels and bandwidth to link as many players as possible, and allow multidirectional communications. Early prototypes used $300 hobby grade R/C cars, at 1/27 scale. We had to try & give our cars the same kind of control & response found in the hobby grade car, but engineer the cost down to something acceptable for a bigger market. It was also important that we reduced the size as much as was physically possible, to minimise the size of roll-out track required.
Current status & production plans.
If this Kickstarter campaign is successfully funded, we will proceed with a Production Pilot run in the factory, in preparation for full production, which we would plan to start in early August. All of the mats are going to being printed in the UK to allow us to inspect & ensure accurate calibration & optimal quality.
Who are we?
The core project team for RealFX Racing consists of:
Dr. Graeme Taylor – Director & Head of Wow! Stuff Labs
Graeme co-ordinates the WSL team, manages projects and oversees external consultants and inventor products. Researcher for IP and uses thereof, inventor of multiple patents in the field of toys and technology, developer and manager of the Wow! Stuff group’s overall IP.
Dr. Jim Wyatt – Creative Director, Wow! Stuff Labs
Jim leads ‘blue sky’ research, trend spotting and innovation, helping to develop Wow! Labs technology and solutions into new products and services. Jim has a PhD in Cybernetics and User eXperience (UX). He worked for 8 years in China bringing innovative toy concepts to market. Jim has delivered more than 150 invited presentations, live demonstrations and workshops on different aspects of cybernetics, robotics and toys. Inventor of numerous patents.
Dr. Mark Gasson - Technical Director, Wow! Stuff Labs
Mark is primarily responsible for developing proof of concept prototypes & economic design for mass manufacture of innovative concepts based on emerging technology. He has aPhD in Cybernetics and Neuro-Engineering and has lectured at Tedx as well as authoring or co-authoring over 100 academic research papers. Inventor of numerous patents. Mark is even in the Guines Book of Records! See Wikipedia Dr. Mark Gasson.
Dr Dave Keating – Consultant in Control Systems & Signal Processing
Paul Minchinton - Consultant in Digital Signal Processing and AI systems
Gareth Shaw - Graphic design & master of gradients
About Wow! Labs
Wow! Labs is a spin out of Wow! Stuff, itself a multi-award winning toy development and distribution company headquartered in the United Kingdom.
Graeme Taylor was a co-founder of Wow! Stuff in 2006. After wearing many different hats & developing many gift, toy & consumer products, he naturally drifted into more technical & innovative areas, leading to the incubation of a ‘special projects’ unit within Wow Stuff, which has evolved into Wow! Labs.
Graeme met Mark, Jim & Dave when working on a previous project. They presented their concept for RealFX Racing to him in 2010. After initially working separately, Mark & Jim eventually joined Wow! Labs as shareholders.
Wow! Labs has offices in the UK and Los Angeles. We invent products ourselves, as well as working with inventors around the globe to co-create exciting new products. Wow! Labs has a highly qualified team of engineers and scientists creating cutting edge technology in the digital-meets-physical space, as well as in more traditional toys and consumer products. Wow! Labs mission is “To work in partnership with major toy and media companies to help power tomorrow’s leading brands, and to keep existing brands highly relevant for the fast changing play patterns of today’s consumers.
Our parent company, Wow! Stuff, has a track record of creating & manufacturing successful products in both the toy & gift markets. Take a look at some of the recognition we are proud to have received in recent years below.
RealFX Racing in the news:
We will try & keep this up to date throughout the campaign as we get coverage and comments.
Click on the links below to read what people are writing about Real FX
RealFX has been in development for over 6 years. Some toy industry trade announcements were made and at February 2014’s famous New York Toy Fair USA's Fox News breakfast show toy expert pronounced it as one of 5 products representing the ‘Top Toy Trends’ and hottest new items of the year.
Here is what Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, thought about RealFX Racing after trying it out at Founders Forum, London (project launch day)
Risks and challenges
We have already worked with our manufacturing partner to produce moulds, electronics & working samples. We also conducted a trial production run on the factories assembly lines (known as a Production Pilot, or PP run) in late 2013. This product development process has allowed us to debug & improve the product at every step.
Should this project be backed, the next stage of the process will be a further PP run, with any findings from the initial PP run acted upon. We will commence this at the earliest stage possible, as there is always the potential for something unexpected to be found during this stage of the process.
However, by starting a PP run at the earliest possible time, we are confident that if any problems do arise, we have sufficient time to overcome them & maintain our production plan, with the first products delivered in October 2014.
We have already completed toy safety testing of the product, to ensure full compliance with regulations in EU, USA, Australia & other key markets.
The core project team of scientists have over 50 years experience within the toy, robotics and radio control industries, and the company that incubated Wow! Labs in the early years, Wow! Stuff, has been manufacturing and exporting from China through our Hong Kong office since 2006.
The facility we are using for manufacture is one of the most respected, specialist R/C factories in China. They have a track record of delivering high quality, reliable products, supplying the Worlds largest retailers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
We are not in control of the retail price, but expect it to be around GB£ 140 - 150 for the 'starter set'
Will international be last to receive their pledges? This has stung me so many times on Kickstarter.
All backer rewards in October will be shipped out at the same time. They will be shipped from Hong Kong.
Yes, they can be raced or driven in R/C mode if you have enough skill.
We only gave early bird pricing on the starter set, because we have deliberately 'over-loaded' the pro set to reward all backers who select that highest tier.
The cars read the track live & real-time, so any additional pieces you add are no different to the first, as far as yor car is concerned. The only practical limit to how much track you could add / how large you make your track layout is the distance over which your controller is still able to communicate with your car.
How do I purchase additional track, What will be the cost of additional track be and when will it be available assuming the project gets funded?
We can't say for sure just now, it depends how the campaign goes. If we reach the funding goal, and hopefully a bit more, we would like to offer backers the opportunity to order anything additional they want as soon as the campaign finishes. Delivery of any 'add-ons' should be feasible at the same time as other backer rewards.
If I have a set, and my friend also has a set, will his two cars and my two cars work at the same time for 4-way fun for the whole family? i.e. can the user change the channel for the controller and car, or will we end up with two cars on each channel?
Yes, and its very easy! Each controller handset is capable of pairing with any car. When you first switch on the controller, it asks you to 'switch on your vehicle'. When you switch on a car (any car), it will pair with it. You can do this with up to 4 cars. The system communicates over 2.4GHz frequency, which means we have plenty frequencies available for dynamic pairing.
Each piece of track has a ultra-thin magnet in the front end corners. They locate & connect with a paired magnet on the end of next piece of track. Its almost instant, and very easy, so you can assemble a track layout very quickly.
The track just looks like a simple gradient… Couldn't I just photocopy or print the track to extend it?
1. The sensors don't read black, they are measuring reflected Infra Red (IR) wavelengths. This essentially means that what the cars are seeing is not the same as what you can see with your eyes.
2. The material used, as well as the ink / toner, all have different qualities. It is impossible to predict the difference that variants invisible to the human eye can make on the IR reflection. White print media, even if supposedly the same composition, can have significantly different characteristics for IR reflectivity.
3. The gradient we work with has been carefully constructed to give the maximum response across track width, as well as functional components like edge detection, barcodes etc. Consequently, any 'shift' or compression of this gradient will do all sorts of weird things to the cars response, not just in terms of track positioning, but also the systems ability to recognise laps, pit lane etc. Everything about the functionality in Real FX depends on this being accurately calibrated.
4. Because of this, attempting to print your own track, or photocopy a genuine track, may work to some extent, but performance is likely to be disappointing. For example, even if we ignore the issue f differing IR reflectivity, the contrast will almost certainly be higher in the photocopy, which means the gradient will be higher in the centre, where the car may become unstable, and at the edges it will 'wander'. Attempting to add 'rogue' track copies onto genuine track pieces will also cause all sorts of nasty behaviour in the cars as they transition between the two differing prints.
Real FX uses 2.4Ghz wireless communication, isn't that going to cause issues with Wi-Fi when using the cars?
Our code is designed to behave in much the same way as a wireless router does. The controller will scan for unused channels in the 2.4 GHz range (there are lots of them), and select a free one to use.
It works perfectly, without you even noticing.
We have given demonstrations of the product in shows, where there are lots of wi-fi networks operating in the same area, and never yet encountered a problem.
In the unlikely event that a device using a really strong signal jumps onto our channel & bullies us off it, the system will announce 'connection lost', and you would need to restart the car & handset to dynamically select a new channel & re-pair. The code is set up to do this, but we have never yet witnessed it actually being required even in a jungle of wi-fi networks!!
The intention for Real FX Racing was to provide the most fun racing experience possible with radio control cars. They are controlled by the radio control handset included with the car, rather than a smartphone. Real FX is all about driving skill & direct racing competition, and we believe a ‘pistol style’ handset as used in high end radio control cars is the best way for players to control their vehicles for racing.
Real FX Racing does have what we call 'pace car' mode, so you can set a car up to run around the track autonomously as a 'virtual opponent' if you want to race but have nobody there to play against. There are also certain elements that are similar to video game racing. For instance, the cars are assisted to stay on the track, which feels a bit like the ‘stickiness’ of video game racing. The voice menu, setup, race hazards, pit-lane call-ins are also similar to a video gaming experience.
However, the most exciting thing with Real FX is the racing. It’s easy to start, but takes time to perfect your driving skills to outrun & out manoeuvre the opposition. Real FX provides an absorbing, competitive, realistic racing experience.
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