Zero Latency’s VR experience features OSVR HDK2 headsets that are modified for location-based entertainment. The entertainment company forged partnerships with Sensics and Razer to implement design changes from the factory.
In late August, Zero Latency revealed that it would be bringing its warehouse-scale multi-player VR experience to the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Today is the first day that the experience is open to the public. We were especially curious about the company’s reason for choosing OSVR headsets and what it did to counter the poor tracking that we've encountered with the system. We reached out to Zero Latency to learn more about its hardware, and we spoke with Scott Vandonkelaar, the co-founder and CTO.
Vandonkelar explained that Zero Latency ended up working with OSVR for a handful of reasons, including licensing agreements and product availability. Zero Latency was also able to work with Sensics and Razer directly to ensure the company’s needs were met.
“When we first started the Vive didn’t actually exist yet, and Oculus, at that stage, had decided not to be involved in location based entertainment,” said Vandonkelar. “Even though we actually started our original prototypes with Oculus--we first worked with the DK1, and we first launched here in Melville with the DK2—we had to start looking elsewhere. And the OSVR, out of all the other options, was the most mature and the most available. Even now, there are more options for headsets, but availability is still difficult. We were able to establish a great relationship with Razer and with Sensics, and we work really closely with them on the development of the product and always making sure that we have the supply that we need.”
The relationship that Zero Latency forged with Sensics and Razer goes far beyond ensuring that Zero Latency’s supply demands are met. The agreement between the three companies enables Zero Latency to make design changes to the OSVR HDK2 kits before they leave the factory.
“We’ve also been able to help guide a lot of their development and make sure that we’re getting what we need, and not just what they have available,” said Vandonkelar. “If we were to go with a Rift or a Vive, we would be getting what comes off the shelf, whereas with Sensics we have the flexibility to make changes and adapt it to our needs. With the HDK2, we helped guide a little bit of the development and where that product went after the HDK 1.4.”
Vandonkelaar also explained that Zero Latency uses the OSVR hardware’s openness to customize the headsets with proprietary changes.
“Because of the openness of the hardware, we’ve been able to make quite a few changes to the headsets that we use at our sites," said Vandonkelaar. “We use slightly different foams around the headsets to change comfort levels, and we’re rolling out a series of new improvements with a new faceplate and new tracking bracket and other components. It would be difficult to make those changes on other headsets.”
Zero Latency’s OSVR headsets receive upgraded foam padding that's twice as thick as the stock foam. These replacements are also washable and wipeable for better hygiene and cleanliness. The company's setup also replaced the poor infrared tracking system that ordinarily ships with the kits with a proprietary tracking system, which enables multi-user warehouse scale tracking.
Unlike most warehouse scale tracking systems, Zero Latency’s uses the visible light spectrum to create and follow trackable objects. The system uses colored lights like the ones you would find on the PlayStation Move and PSVR Aim controllers, along with an array of cameras to pinpoint the location of each light. The colored lights also have a practical advantage in a multi-user environment.
“The main difference is a lot of traditional motion capture systems use infrared light, so they have these reflective markers if it’s a passive system or they have LEDs if it’s an active tracking system,” said Vandonkelaar. “Whereas for ours, we actually use the actual visible color spectrum instead. So that's where it does look a lot like a Playstation Move or like a Playstation VR, because they also use the visible light to do the tracking. There are pros and cons to each, but the main advantage we have is that it's great for identification of players. From an operational sense, you can always see that the system is working, and you can see how it's working. It creates an additional feedback loop, giving us more wavelength to work with which is an advantage as well."
Each trackable object, be it the gun peripheral or your headset, has two lights to help stabilize that tracking position. Zero Latency’s early installations featured a single-point tracking system, which proved too unreliable for practical use. With two tracking points on each object, the system doesn’t have any tracking issues. Zero Latency’s tracking system offers sub-millimeter tracking precision, but it isn’t quite as accurate as the Steam VR tracking technology.
“We fall into a similar spectrum,” said Vandonkelaar. “We consider it sub-millimeter, but it’s not as high a frequency as the Vive. Theirs can run at around 1000Hz, whereas we’re sitting at around 200Hz at the moment. But that’s still more than adequate, and we get lots of really positive feedback about our tracking system.”
Vandonkelaar told us that a location like the MGM Grand would require as many as 64 cameras to achieve that level of tracking fidelity, but it could also support more than 30 gun-toting players.
Zero Latency’s MGM Grand location is open now, and it offers three different 30-minute multiplayer experiences for up to eight players at a time. The content includes a zombie shooter, a sci-fi shooter, and a puzzle game. Vandonkelaar said that more exciting content is coming next year, though. Zero Latency is currently developing a competitive VR esports game, which it intends to reveal later this year.