Latency - the delay between a user’s action and the response to this action - is known to be detrimental to virtual reality. Latency is typically considered to be a discrete value characterising a delay, constant in time and space - but this characterisation is incomplete. Latency changes across the display during scan-out, and how it does so is dependent on the rendering approach used. In this study, we present an ultra-low latency real-time ray-casting renderer for virtual reality, implemented on an FPGA. Our renderer has a latency of ∼1 ms from ‘tracker to pixel’. Its frameless nature means that the region of the display with the lowest latency immediately follows the scan-beam. This is in contrast to frame-based systems such as those using typical GPUs, for which the latency increases as scan-out proceeds. Using a series of high and low speed videos of our system in use, we confirm its latency of ∼1 ms. We examine
how the renderer performs when driving a traditional sequential scan-out display on a readily available HMD, the Oculus Rift DK2. We contrast this with an equivalent apparatus built using a GPU. Using captured human head motion and a set of image quality measures, we assess the ability of these systems to faithfully recreate the stimuli of an ideal virtual reality system - one with a zero latency tracker, renderer and display running at 1 kHz. Finally, we examine the results of these quality measures, and how each rendering approach is affected by velocity of movement and display persistence. We find that our system, with a lower average latency, can more faithfully draw what the ideal virtual reality system would. Further, we find that with low display persistence, the sensitivity to velocity of both systems is lowered, but that it is much lower for ours.