Building the Network to Grow a Global Virtual Reality Company

Networking the VR Zombie Apocalypse Experience

zero latency vr free roam gaming
Cisco Meraki

This decade saw the spectacular rise of mobile devices as the platform of choice for everything from social media and gaming to customer service and online payments. Now it’s time for a new platform to revolutionize the way consumers and businesses engage with digital content. It’s time for the world to be introduced to the next generation of entertainment, shopping, healthcare, and more: augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

According to research firm McKinsey, immersive computing could actually replace mobile devices. While it’s difficult to imagine anything approaching today’s ubiquity of smartphones, Goldman Sachs estimates that the emerging AR and VR industry could see up to $182 billion in annual revenue by 2025 –  a figure that far surpasses the current $88 billion in combined in-home entertainment and movie box office revenues.

A fast-growing global VR entertainment company, Zero Legacy, shows how it could happen with the help of innovative software, hardware, and high-speed networking.

Building Tomorrow’s Entertainment

Zero Latency has grown from modest beginnings in 2014 as a crowd-funding campaign to a global leader with over 550,000 game plays (a player's interaction with a video game) in 10 countries. They are currently raising $25,000AUD to expand an immersive zombie apocalypse experience in Melbourne, Australia to 29 locations in 18 countries in 2019.

As part of the experience, two players are set loose in a room full of virtual enemies (zombies, robots, drones) and get their heart rates up as they battle their way to victory or doom in a fully immersive and frighteningly realistic experience that makes an hour feel like five minutes, according to reviewers.

The Zero Latency experience depends on a gaming controller, wireless VR goggles and headphones, a high-end computer in a backpack, and the infrastructure that makes it all possible: a high-speed network that lets the company live up to its name. That last part of the setup proved especially tricky to get right.

Networking the Zombie Apocalypse

It fell to Zero Latency’s lead systems engineer and employee number one, Hunter Mayne, to set up the network to the server running the game system. The network would connect cameras (so players didn’t bump into each other), wireless controllers, headsets, and backpacks, and had to be fast, avoiding any dropouts or lag that would spoil the illusion of the gaming experience. It also had to be easy to set up, manage, and troubleshoot; the team had expansion on the agenda from day one.

The problem was, the fledgling company's first network—used for development and testing—was a hodgepodge of different consumer products that wouldn't provide the seamless experience their initial funders were looking for. Nor would it scale to the multiple locations already envisioned.

“We were making huge amounts of changes very quickly and the lack of visibility and management made it impossible to identify the root cause of problems,” recalled Mayne.

Expanding Through the Cloud

A webinar convinced Mayne to trial Cisco Meraki switches and wireless access points for that first Zero Latency experience. “No contest” was his verdict, compared with the previous ad-hoc network setup. Not only was the system faster and more reliable, but Cisco Meraki’s cloud-managed dashboard gave the team full visibility into the network performance of every device, as well as easy access to troubleshooting options. 

Even better, the new network was easy to scale. Now, when deploying networks to new locations, Mayne and his team remotely configure Cisco Meraki access points and other gear and have them shipped to the new venue. From there, a staffer plugs them in, no special expertise required.

Zero Latency is set to expand to 100 locations in 2020 with the help of Cisco Meraki. It seems the immersive computing revolution will be zombified. Bring it on.

To learn more, visit meraki.com/worksimple

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