Zero Latency, one of the longest running VR attractions in the out-of-home VR space, is dropping the backpack PCs that were once the backbone of the platform. Now the company says it’s moving to standalone Vive Focus 3 headsets with wireless delivery of PC-rendered VR content.

Unlike a VR arcade, which lets customers play consumer VR content, Zero Latency is a VR attraction offering totally unique multi-user VR experiences designed to be played in a large, shared arena.

Image courtesy Zero Latency

The company, which offers up its platform and experiences to franchisees, has steadily upgraded its VR tech as the space has developed.

Early on the system relied on a custom backpack PC paired with OSVR HDK 2 headsets and an optical overhead tracking system. Eventually the company moved to purpose-built VR backpacks and first-gen WMR headsets from HP, which allowed it to streamline the system considerably by dropping the overhead tracking in favor of WMR’s inside-out tracking. Later versions of the system moved to the more modern HP Reverb headset.

Now Zero Latency has announced its latest upgrade to the system, which further streamlines the setup by opting for the standalone Vive Focus 3 and streaming PC-rendered content wirelessly to the headsets. The company says it’s streaming over a local Wi-Fi 6E network which purportedly offers lower latency than prior Wi-Fi revisions.

Image courtesy Zero Latency

That means dropping the VR backpacks entirely, which not only reduces the cost of the system, but significantly reduces complexity for both operators and users; operators don’t need to clean, charge, and maintain the backpack units, and it’s one less step during onboarding which means more playtime for users.

And while other standalone headsets like Quest 2 might have been an option, HTC’s Vive Focus 3 has a couple of unique advantages for out-of-home use. Especially its swappable battery which reduces the number of headsets needed on hand as the batteries can be charged independently and swapped on the fly.

On the content side, Zero Latency locations continue to offer the same experiences as before, which span cooperative and competitive multiplayer experiences with up to eight simultaneous players. Though, given the company’s knack for innovation in their in-house content, it’ll be interesting to see if the move to a more simplified system will unlock potential for experiences that wouldn’t quite work with the bulkier setup.

Given today’s announcement, it’ll likely be some time yet before the upgrade rolls out to existing Zero Latency locations, but it seems the company will be offering this upgraded version of the system to new franchisees going forward.

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  • Jonathan Winters III

    Beyond funny that they pride themselves (and even name themselves) “Zero Latency”, yet pull this move.

    • Keng Yuan Chang

      Well backpack PC still communicates with the server wirelessly though, and after playing with AirLink I think the latency really is negligible, I can’t tell it’s wireless really, and Vive’s 6G wigig wifi should be even better.

      • brandon9271

        we’re talking “motion to photon” latency when the headset is hardwired vs wireless. That’s not the same as connecting to a server for multiplayer. I think you probably knew that though.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        But the backpack pc is used for rendering everything and only using wifi for the gamedata like a regular multiplayergame. So visually it differs a lot. Even the difference between Quest link and cabled dp on the Pico neo3 is a major difference.

        • NL_VR

          Its a major difference when comparing directly.
          Something you will “forget” after 30 second in a VR arcade.

    • cake-fu

      Yeah they should just keep wasting money and resources and time with the stupid backpacks. THAT would be pride.

  • XRC

    Having used backpack PCVR at many different locations, the inherent latency for wi-fi streaming headsets may require rebranding from “Zero latency”…

    • Adkdave

      Wireless VR latency with a good setup is sub-30ms…not zero but than neither is a wired VR. I bet most couldn’t tell the difference aside from lack of the awkward backpack.

    • NL_VR

      Do you think latency will be a problem?
      Ask those who play expert+ on Beat saber wireless from SteamVR if its a problem :P

    • MountainK1ng

      That much more than the inherent latency of backpack PCs communicating with the server over wifi?

      • Andrew Jakobs

        But that’s only for interaction dat like a regular multiplayer game, not the whole videostream, which really is a lesser experience as directly connected as a monitor.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Technically there is no zero latency. Even tethered headsets have a latency due to the time the rendering takes. If you take the gyro data and start the rendering based on these within the 11ms you have at 90Hz, the image you actually display will be about 10ms late. This is compensated by reading the sensors again after the rendering and then rotating/shifting the rendered image according to the updated data, pushing the perceived latency down to a few ms. AFAIR this has been the case since DK2.

      You can do the same with even larger latency, e.g. 30ms introduced by WiFi, or even higher. What increases is the probability of artifacts, e.g. objects that move against the head movement will stutter, and of course input latency is increased. But in the optimal case you will not be able to notice any difference in perceived visual latency between tethered and streamed VR, while in both cases there actually is some latency.

      People early on even considered getting to actual zero perceived latency by simply extrapolating the current user head movement and rendering the image for the direction the user would most likely face at the end of the render process. But according to Carmack this was a very jarring experience whenever the software failed to correctly predict the direction because the user changed movement direction.

  • MeowMix

    Especially its swappable battery which reduces the number of headsets needed on hand as the batteries can be charged independently and swapped on the fly.

    Yup, hot swappable batteries are awesome. That’s why I really like my Quest2 BoboVR M1 Pro strap

    • Arno van Wingerde

      Apart from that, you can get about 4 Quest2 headsets for one Vife Focus 3…

  • Yoan Perez

    In an age were Quest 2 exist this seems ridiculous

    • Corellianrogue

      I don’t think Meta allows Quest 2s to be used in arcades.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        I guess the business license does.

        • tomchall

          They’ve ended that program

        • Corellianrogue

          Are you sure? I seem to remember an interview with either a regular VR arcade or one of these location-based VR companies like Zero Latency (maybe it was Zero Latency) who were asked if they would use Oculus Quests in the future and they said Oculus (this was well before the name change) wouldn’t let them be used commercially in that way. I guess it’s possible Meta has changed the rules since then though.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          It is somewhat fuzzy. FAQ and Business License say no:

          Oculus for Business FAQ: Can I operate an experience that includes co-location features?

          Co-location is when two devices in the same vicinity track each other within the software. The tracking functionality of the Oculus software does not support co-location, and you may not modify the tracking functionality for custom co-location or otherwise.

          and

          Oculus for Business Enterprise Use Agreement
          […]
          1c.License Restrictions. Unless separately approved in writing by Oculus, you will not, in connection with any use of the Software and the Support Services under this Agreement:
          […]
          iii. provide, transfer, resell, lease, lend, rent, use as a service or otherwise make available (including in commercial enterprises, or as a part of a location-based experience, arcade, or other hospitality entertainment offering), the Products, Software, Oculus platform, or Support Services to end users or any other third party except as set forth in the Headset Extended Community Addendum

          But

          Headset Extended Community License Addendum to the Enterprise Use Agreement

          1. License. In addition to the rights granted in Section 1(a)(i) of the Agreement, and subject to your compliance with the Agreement and this Addendum, Facebook grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, revocable, limited license to provide and permit use of the Software on the Hardware to Customers, as long as you have your personnel present at all times to administer and supervise the Customer’s use of the Hardware and Software (an “Extended Use”). For clarity, location-based experiences, arcades, and trainings are Extended Uses under this Addendum.

          The latter seems to be a new addition, and I’m not entirely sure who or what the community to which the enterprise license would apply actually is. So you are not allowed to add co-location features yourself, you may not lend/rent or use Oculus hardware and software in location-based experiences, unless it falls under extended use and you provide support personnel on location. This seems to be mostly to ensure people don’t get hurt in VR and sue Facebook/Meta, but somewhat pointless if you aren’t allowed to incorporate co-location features. So this would cover e.g. running ten demo stations on a games trade fair, all running in one location, but with software that doesn’t connect the gamers in one physical space.

  • does look and feel a lot cleaner to not have to lug a backpack around to play