The Worlds First VR Arena: An Interview with Zero Latency’s CTO

Zero Latency is a world first Virtual Reality arena located in Melbourne, Australia. Pioneering the idea of free-roaming VR in 2015. Having enjoyed considerable success in Melbourne they have now expanded to 4 locations around the world, in Spain, Tokyo, Australia and America. After reaching out to them about the possibility of an interview I got the chance to interview their Chief Technical Officer, Scott Vandonkelaar.

What exactly is it that you do at Zero Latency and what is your role in the company?

As the CTO of Zero Latency I was the inventor of the system, then founded the company with Tim (Ruse) and Kyel (Smith). Since then I’ve done a lot, programming mostly. Now that the company has grown I’m looking more at the technology we’re using, guiding projects and such. Role keeps changing I would say.

In five years, where would you hope to be as a company, are there plans to continue to grow, or perhaps move into other industries?

Yeah, I’m certain the company’s going to grow quite a lot. We’ve been around for 2 years so far and we’ve already seen pretty enormous growth. So I’d imagine in the next five years we’ll be a very international company with probably more than 1 development studio as well as a variety of hardware products. Somewhere in the hundreds of locations around the world.

With regards to the VR industry as a whole, do you think that it’s going to grow into other industries, or stay as a niche as it is currently?

I think it’s going to grow a whole lot, destination based entertainment will be a big part of VR for at least the next five years. It is already growing into a lot of other industries apart from entertainment. We’ve worked with real estate companies, with mining, military, there’s all sorts of applications for VR and I think its going to find its way into even more industries as things progress.

What would you say is the next technological leap you are looking for?

For us the main technology we’re dipping into is making our experiences essentially feel more realistic through better haptics and more seamless user interaction. So basically having better tracking over the players in the space so we know more about what they are doing and we can have the environment or characters in the environment react more naturally to how they’re moving and what they’re doing. So that’s what we’re focusing on.

How long are you going to keep improving until you feel that you have reached ‘endgame’?

I don’t foresee a point where it’s going to stop, right up until the point where you’re going to plug into the matrix kinda thing. Where we’re actually connecting to your brain immersing your entire being. Until we’ve reached that point we’re not going to stop. There’s a long way to go and heaps of advances to make.

What technologies have just matured enough to allow you to do this. What would have stopped you 5 years ago?

We actually started 4 years ago, so going back at that point, the main tipping point was the actual VR headsets, having screens of that size but with a high resolution that we could then track with the appropriate sensors, gyros and accelerometers and such. And finally all these technologies got to a price point where you didn’t need 50 million dollars to make a realistic or even achievable VR system. So those were the major tipping points and beyond that, computing power, the computers in the backpacks of the players, that’s seen a lot of advancement in just the last couple of years. But yeah go back 5 or 6 years and trying to get that kind of graphical performance in such a small device was quite difficult. So yeah there’s been heaps of things that we couldn’t do. Almost every part of our system relies on a technology that was invented in the past 3 or 4 years. So it’s all very very new.

Going back to your mentioning of working with military what exactly are you doing, is it strategizing or examining new devices?

Well I can’t go super into detail.

Of course

But when we work with the Australian Defence Force , we work on training simulations for their soldiers, for foot soldiers (riflemen), for people on the ground. So it’s all about tactical training, say how about you approach a building, a person, things like that.

Out of all of your games, what has been your most popular genre?

A lot of people are extremely drawn to our zombies experience, its high intensity, it’s really fun, it’s exciting, a little bit scary. So we get a lot of demand for that but our new games are still a little bit new and so some people are still getting comfortable with those concepts. A little bit different. One of them’s fairly straightforward, it’s where you’re shooting little robots in space, seems pretty cool. And we’ve had some really really intense and fantastic reactions to that. People have been really enjoying it. But our really really strange one, which I find the most interesting is our engineerium experience, where you’re going through this really physically twisted sort of world, and doing things which shouldn’t work. It puts your body through strange sensations, and although that doesn’t appeal to people who just want to run around shooting everything and blowing everything up, I think it’s a pretty amazing experience. It’ll be interesting to see where those kind of experiences go.

What do you think the next big leap for VR will be?

The next major leap for VR as a whole, I think it’s awhile away, but that would be the ability to experience something without it happening at all. Our VR experiences are based around the idea that in order to feel a sensation we do actually have to replicate it, but if we can find a way to replicate sensations without actually doing a full physical replication, like create the feeling in your hand that you’re holding something, but there’s literally absolutely nothing there and you’re intercepting those senses and telling the body its holding something when there isn’t something there, that’ll be the next major leap. I don’t know how far away that would be, it’ll be quite a while I think before we understand all those neural sciences, but I know there’s a lot of people doing research in that area, even for physical rehabilitation or people who have lost limbs.

You can find Zero Latency at their website A wide range of games are available at locations across the world.

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