From gaming to health checks: NZ tech companies get early access to 5G and a leg up on international competitors

The brains behind some of the country's best tech ideas now have a major advantage over their international competitors. 

Four companies have won early access to Spark's 5G network to develop their ideas - and for one virtual reality (VR) gaming company, it's a huge boost in the billion-dollar esports industry. 

Paintball was invented in the '60s, laser tag in the 80s - but look out for the next craze: Oddball.  

It's a Kiwi augmented reality (AR) game rolling out in arcades across the US, attracting interest from the Los Angeles 'it' crowd.

"We've had some amazing people play, like Ice Cube - apparently he really liked it," said Beyond AR co-founder and CEO Jessica Manins.

While COVID-19 has slowed the rollout overseas, soon you'll be able to join the game's famous fans by playing them live online. 

That's because the Kiwi company behind it is one of four who won a Dragons Den-style pitch for exclusive access to a 5G testing lab. 

In their case, it means connecting Oddball headset players with worldwide opponents who can use their phone to join in. 

"We'll have 4K streaming - so they'll be able to in real-time be watching the game - but not only that, they can interact with the game as an additional character," Manins explained.

Fellow winner Rocos, a company that builds robot software, says the biggest advantage of the 5G access is getting a headstart on international competitors. 

"It provides globally a unique opportunity to have a competitive advantage in the 5G space," said CEO and founder David Inggs.

The advantage is not just economic, but in health; the remaining winners are working on specialist tools for remote eye checks and software that detects vision problems in children before they can talk. 

Instead of a child having to read out what they see on a traditional picture or vision chart, they just watch a video instead, which detects healthy eye movement. 

The assessment is instant, and the impact of this Kiwi innovation a potential life-changer - or, in Oddball's case, a game-changer.