Meet Zero Latency: The Future Of Immersive Gaming, Built In Australia

They're coming. Hoardes of them. You can hear them everywhere: behind you, in front and off to the sides. The undead. They want your flesh. A quick check of your pistol reveals that you don't have enough for the job ahead, and your back is up against the wall. Time to fight. All of a sudden, your eyes refocus as the Oculus Rift unit is lifted from in front of your eyes, and you realise that you're safe in a warehouse. But the fear was real. This is Zero Latency: Australia's newest large-scale VR gaming project.

The Zero Latency project takes a leaf out of the Patient Zero book: get people into a room and simulate a zombie invasion to scare the bejeezus out of them. Zero Latency has a twist, however: instead of actually filling said space with real-life actors posing as zombies, Zero Latency straps you into an Oculus Rift, a wireless backpack unit and a wireless pistol to make the terror feel as real as ever.

So how does it work?

The project has been in development since early-2013, and started as hacked-together bits and pieces from the PlayStation 3 to get it all working.

The original weapon prototypes used to be Nerf guns with a PlayStation controller and Move remote duct-taped on, while the motion capture system was constructed from an array of PlayStation Move cameras to track subjects in a virtual space.

The project slowly evolved over 12 months until the controller became just a pistol with a motion-capture light indicator on the top to feed data back into the system.

The gun, the sound and what the player sees via the Oculus Rift VR headset will all be controlled via a wireless backpack that was developed in-house by the guys at Zero Latency down in Melbourne specifically for the game. The best part? It's completely wireless, so you're free to play however you want, without having to fall over an invisible cable on your way to the next objective. It's experiential gaming at its very best.

And the weapons won't stop there: the final Zero Latency experience will include a pistol, a sub-machine gun, grenades and other armaments.

The main scenario that the Zero Latency team has developed right now is a zombie invasion, and it's successfully scaring the crap out of people thanks to the immersion created by holding a weapon and seeing it unfold on the Oculus Rift.

Eventually, Zero Latency will be a two-player experience where you and a friend can hunt each other in a sprawling warehouse space yet to be established in Melbourne. The guys want to expand it to four-player co-op over time.

Like all amazing gaming projects in Australia right now, this one is still in the crowdfunding stage. Hosted on Pozible, the crowdfunds raised will go towards building more backpack processing units and renting the space required for the events. Hopefully it will be one without giant poles every 20 metres like in the Pozible video.

By November, Zero Latency wants to have its game space up and running for two-player co-op or combat, with early-bird tickets on Pozible starting at just $60. Normally, the tickets will be sold for $75. There are a variety of backer rewards in place, including a top-tier reward that means you get to become a character in the game space.

The zombie apocalypse will probably never happen in the real world, meaning Zero Latency is as real as it's ever going to feel. [Zero Latency]

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    This looks Insane!!! Great to see something cutting edge being developed in Aus!

    Awesome, I wonder how big the arena is and how big it could be?
    I'd definitely have a crack.

      based on a video I once saw from the early prototype stage, the 'playable area' looked to be about 4x4m (indicated by a square drawn on the ground in-game that represented the walls of the physical room).

      pretty sure that was just due to the size of the rooms they had to work with at the time though.
      I guess the upper size limit would be based on how far the cameras can reliably track your movements....

      anyway, they're on twitter at @zerolatencyVR if you care to ask them.

      Last edited 22/05/14 2:16 pm

      Hey John, the arena can be as big as we have the space (and money) to cover.

      We will have a minimum of 50sqm per player (5mx10m) with a total of 100sqm usable. But the more support we get, the bigger we can go. I think it will get really good when we go beyond 200sqm.

    As I understand it, the sensors work to x meters, but they're in an array so it can be expanded to cover more floor space.

    The poles were part of the building but I don't see why the sensors couldn't be mounted on the roof. The cool thing is though, even if the poles remained, they could just be included in the Virtual Reality environment -- that's where this concept/technology shines.

    Last edited 22/05/14 12:49 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on this. I just donated to this project and another one also featured on the site.

    It would be really cool that instead of paying what will probably be a sizable fee to play these games at inconvenient centers, we could play them in our homes, own yards or somewhere public in our towns.

    Last edited 22/05/14 2:42 pm

      There will be other forms of experience you will be able to get at home, but they won't be anywhere near the quality of experience you will be getting at a dedicated site.

      There are a number of reasons why. Firstly, the cost of such a system would be too high for anyone to rationalise. Then there is the safety concerns with running around blind-folded. Unless you are extremely dedicated to clearing a 50square meter space in your home, which is hard enough as it is, you aren't likely to be able to find a safe place to do it.

      Ideally we would love to make it more available. There are applications for this system which go far beyond gaming, we just have to get it there.

    Sounds great, but I wouldn't want to get so immersed that I sprinted in-game and then hit a building pillar at full tilt. :-)

      Don't worry! We are setting the environment up to be completely safe. The game will never do anything which would inspire you to run in to a real world object. We'll be releasing a safety video down the track to help explain it.

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