Technology

The debut venture into virtual reality

Written by Philip Ritchie

Imagine a virtual world that can’t use traditional advertising out of fear it won’t do the product justice.

It can be written about, but experiencing it is on a whole new level. You are transported inside a videogame; your peripherals no longer catch the lamp on your desk or the click of your mouse, because you’ve become the mouse.

You’ve just experienced the first taste of what Melbourne-based company Zero Latency has been working on for close to three years – virtual reality.

The “café” marks the first of its kind, offering a hands-on approach to video games where you and five of your best mates can tackle a zombie apocalypse.

It’s a mesh of “go-karting, laser tag and a dark ride,” said Zero Latency director Tim Ruse.

Guided by 129 PlayStation Eye Cameras inside a 400-square-metre warehouse, participants tackle the most immersive, free-roam environment technology can muster.

Each player begins the simulation equipped with an Oculus Rift head-mounted display, a Razer OSVR headset, a customised Alienware Alpha PC and a rifle.

For close to an hour the group of people will walk around and clear the room of hordes of zombies, rendered by the PC on your back – think Left 4 Dead.

And with the virtual environment ranging anywhere from sewers to offices to derelict streets, the game can be intense.

“We’ve actually toned down the intensity of the game,” Ruse said. “It’s a lot less scary.”

That doesn’t stop the exhilaration of experiencing it though, with people walking between 600 metres and a kilometre as well as recorded heart rates of up to 178 bpm.

“It’s really cool to watch people enjoy something you’ve created that much,” he said.

Long-time gamer Tyler Cricket said, “I’m getting bored of conventional gaming nowadays.”

And on the curve of a new era in internet cafés, Zero Latency might bring just that, owing much of their success with integration to recent advances in battery and phone technology, allowing the creation of wireless immersion coupled with decent graphics and frame rates.

“There’s things that work very well in our system that wouldn’t work in Battlefield 4, and vice versa,” he said.

And with more and more games in the works, Zero Latency is heading towards big things.

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Philip Ritchie

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