Oculus Rift Hack Shows How Much Lag Sucks In Real Life

If you've ever played an online game, you're doubtless familiar with the concept of lag. It's the bane of pretty much every gamer's existence; a delay between input and action which can more often than not be the difference between victory and defeat. It's ruined more than one match, I'm certain; just as I'm certain there's been more than one gamer who's used lag as an excuse for incompetence.

Of course, since this latency only affects video games, it's largely harmless. You're not going to end up dead because your character didn't respond quickly enough to your commands, nor are you likely to lose your job due to a shoddy Internet connection. But what if all this latency was translated to the real world? 

What if you could lag in real life?

A Swedish broadband company rigged up an experiment using an Oculus Rift and a Raspberry Pi, creating a hack which simulates the effects of latency during face-to-face activities. How it works is simple: a subject dons the headset along with a set of noise-cancelling headphones. The headset then offsets what they see by anywhere from a third of a second to three seconds. Sound frustrating? 

You have no idea.

At the beginning of the experiment, the volunteers only had to deal with the 1/3 second delay, which gradually increased over the course of use to a delay of three seconds. Even with the lowest latency setting, it proved impossible for them to do...well, much of anything. Apparently, even the most basic of real-world tasks are next to impossible to perform while 'lagging;' one poor sod ends up getting so lost while trying to put away a carton of milk that he ends up slamming his head into a cupboard. The sporting competitions were even worse.

"Even though I knew where I was, I didn't know which way to run," said one volunteer who wore the headset in an aerobics class - an affair which toed the line between hilarious and somewhat pitiful. Most of the course involved her flailing about, repeatedly running into one of her peers. Watching one of the participants try to eat ends up being even more pathetic, and at the end of the video it becomes very clear that lag doesn't mix with anything (but especially bowling). 

Now, it is worth mentioning that the whole thing basically serves as an advertisement Ume.net. Even so, it's an incredibly creative use of the Oculus Rift, and the results end up being so entertaining to watch that I really don't mind that much. Have a look at the video below to see the experiment for yourself. 


May 5, 2014
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