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Zero Latency opens warehouse-style virtual reality in Orlando, Florida

The thrill of roaming a huge warehouse in virtual reality playing games will come to the US from this month with Melbourne’s Zero Latency confirming its first American centre in Orlando, Florida.

Founder Tim Ruse says Zero Latency will partner with US-based Main Event Entertainment to operate a 200 square metre (2153 square feet) centre at Pointe Orlando bowling-anchored entertainment centre.

Three experiences will be available: a shorter, more intense version of the Zombie Shooter game played in Melbourne will debut at launch, while a space exploring shooter game and puzzle game will come later.

Zero Latency will debut at an International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Florida and Mr Ruse says it will be a permanent feature at Main Event Entertainment’s new centre.

Select attendees at the IAAPA Expo from November 15 to 18 will be the first to experience the attraction on mainland America which will then open to the US public.

Zero Latency is planning at least two more centres in the US, but Mr Ruse had no details to offer.

Melbourne's virtual reality warehouse experience: Zero Latency

Zero Latency opened at a warehouse in North Melbourne in August last year. Customers can roam a huge warehouse playing a zombie shooter game while wearing a high-resolution VR headset, such as the Oculus Rift.

The experience proved to be ahead of the game in offering wireless high-definition VR. Headsets such as Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR require cables to receive a high resolution VR experience, but Zero Latency overcame the limitation by writing a wireless communications system.

The headsets are tethered to lightweight Dell Alienware Alpha R2 notebooks mounted inside backpacks. Communications is between the backpacks

Frank Azor, vice president & general manager, Alienware and XPS and Joe Olmsted, director of Alienware Product Planning met up with Mr Ruse at the PAX Australia gaming event held in Melbourne on the weekend.

Currently six play the game and they see one another as avatars in the virtual world. Although the game takes place over 200 to 400 square metres, Zero Latency says it developed a way to “bend virtual space” to make the experience seem larger.

Zero Latency and Utah-based The Void are the first to offer large scale public experiences in VR with The Void opening an experience at Madame Tussaud’s in New York. But they differ. The Void’s involves sequencing through a series of rooms as part of a Ghostbusters VR theme experience.

Combing for zombies in warehouse-sized virtual reality warehouse experience, Zero Latency.

In Australia, Zero Latency offers free roaming around a large virtual space without internal walls for up to one hour. Unlike a home VR environment, there are no coffee tables or walls to crash into, stairs to tumble down or pet dogs and cats to accidentally kick when they get in the way. Users are warned when they reach the warehouse physical limits.

In the zombie shooter game, you start off with target practice using a VR weapon before being spectacularly raised on a huge platform to ground level. You are then on a mission to eliminate marauding zombies.

“Warehouse-scale, free-roam, virtual reality gaming simply cannot be created at home,” says Main Event Entertainment chief executive Charlie Keegan. “Zero Latency provides an undeniably compelling reason for gamers, families, parties, and friends to come out for a mind-blowing fun and immersive group experience.”

Mr Ruse says the US represents an exciting opportunity for his start-up company. Zero Latency began expanding outside Australia this year with a centre partnered with Japan’s indoor amusement park firm Sega Live Creation opening in Tokyo in July. Another Zero Latency centre opened in Madrid, Spain, this month.

VR with Zero Latency in Melbourne.

Mr Ruse says close to 14,000 people have experienced Zero Latency in Melbourne, where it costs $A88 per user. Add three months operation in Tokyo and the figure is about 40,000 customers. Mr Ruse says Zero Latency is testing 8 player versions of its games in Melbourne.

In June Mr Ruse revealed that Zero Latency was building a VR scenario for Australia’s Special Air Service (SAS) regiment that it could use for training troops. It was being built collaboratively with the SAS who were evaluating it and modifying it to their requirements, in what Mr Ruse called an agile software environment.

He says the project is still under way as part of the Army Innovation Day Trial Program.

Zero Latency also has worked with global digital property advertising firm REA Group to develop a real estate experience where people can physically walk through an apartment that’s yet to be built.

Virtual real estate experiences are usually restricted to Google Street View-style movements where wearers click on locations they want to visit. In this case you physically walk through a VR projected house or apartment. (REA Group is majority owned by News Corp Australia, publisher of The Australian.)

Mr Ruse says Zero Latency had expanded from 3 people at the start of last year to more than 30 and the company is still looking to hire staff. It needs more web developers, game developers, IT people, project managers and online training creators.

The real world view of virtual reality gaming at Zero Latency. Personal technology journalist Chris Griffith.