Valve Says Latency Is The Enemy Of VR

It might seem a little obvious, but latency issues make a huge difference in a virtual world, especially one that you're projecting just a few millimetres from a gamer's eye. Over on Valve's official blog, Michael Abrash goes into a lot of detail around latency issues as they affected legacy hardware back in the VGA days, and how they affect virtual worlds. He makes the very sensible point that not all programming breakthroughs come just because you slave away at them — his legacy approach occurred to him while decorating a Christmas tree — but also that the latency needed for proper VR is much more finicky than regular PC gaming.

How much latency is too much? Less than you might think. For reference, games generally have latency from mouse movement to screen update of 50 ms or higher (sometimes much higher), although I’ve seen numbers as low as about 30 ms for graphically simple games running with tearing (that is, with vsync off). In contrast, I can tell you from personal experience that more than 20 ms is too much for VR and especially AR, but research indicates that 15 ms might be the threshold, or even 7 ms.

[Valve blog via Polygon] Image: fotologic


    So since Australia's internet isnt that great, we will never get it?

      ...This isn't about network latency at all.

        To clarify, its about hardware/software latency. His example was about the latency between moving the mouse and the computer recognising this and then displaying it on the monitor

          Yeah, most monitors alone can have in the tens of milliseconds of latency. Good "gaming" ones that I see operate at around 6ms or 7ms, or maybe less, but with everything else added latency increases by quite a bit.

          Do people just not read the article before commenting?

            Come now blokes, it was a simple error in an attempt at humour. Je5us clarified it perfectly well, so there's no need to harp on about it. Settle.

      Yep, when i hear Latency, i automatically think Internet Speed lol.

    Well that sucks. I'm assuming this isn't just talking about the type of latency you experience playing games online with friends far away. But rather plain old hardware and in game latency. Well I guess with a number of technologies being pushed to the absolute limit explained with things such as Moore's Law, we have some pretty big challenges ahead of us in solving some of these problems.

    I guess I still have to focus on making it into and past university before I can help though. Good luck Valve guys!

    How people are not aware of this, I don't know. Anybody who has used kinect has experienced the problem of latency. For me, that particular technology is intolerable. I am a firmware engineer, but it doesn't take a firmware engineer to understand that every point in the signal chain adds valuable response time and that there is a point at which latency serves to irritate the user. I warn you, though - those of you who erroneously read this as network latency - you're better off being ignorant in this case - once you start noticing latency, forever it will bug you, thereafter.

      Too true. Ever since I first discovered it when trying to play Guitar Hero, all I can ever do is notice and get thrown off by it. And then do crazy things like search around for TVs that give me the least amount of latency for my old machines.

    That's right Mr.Unicorn were all waiting on you.
    So hurry up already, as a kid I was near on promised VR by the year 2000 and its already 12 years late!!

    Who is responsible for the delays on my Robot best friend and my flying car??

      dude forget the robots and flying cars and VR, were is my damn hoverboard

    The Occulus panel was run at last years Quakecon had a good deal of talk around latency. The general problem in most modern systems is the latency of the display protocol. HDMI is a lag fiend compared to the old VGA connection. Most display manufacturer's simply don't care about the latency side of the equation as it's not something most people consider.

    Thanks Valve, for giving us half of Carmack's 2012 keynote in layman's terms.

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