One of the concepts drawing the most attention at CES in the gaming space is Razer’s Project Ariana. If you remember Microsoft’s Illumiroom you’ll be familiar with what Razer is trying to achieve. The main piece is a 4k projector which will project a larger field of view of the game onto your wall, surrounding your television.
Project Ariana is built with the goal to make your gaming session much more immersive than you get by looking at a single flat display. You’ll see more of what’s going on around the character, and it doesn’t require you to shove your head into a constrained virtual reality headset. The projector uses two 3D cameras to analyze your room. This allows it to accurately display the gigantic image on all the correct surfaces while refraining from blasting light onto your television screen.
I got to check out Project Ariana first hand, and honestly I think it’s over-hyped. Their demo was only projecting onto one wall (the same wall where the TV was mounted), and while they say it can be configured to wrap around to adjacent walls, I wonder why they didn’t actually do that. The display did show more of the game than was visible on the TV, but the effect was just plain weird. Razer was playing Shadow Warrior 2, a first-person action game, in their demo. On the TV, as normal, the player could only see the characters hands and the sword he was carrying. The projector then filled in the rest of the arms, along with the landscape around the character.
I found two problems with Project Ariana. First, the projected image just didn’t look all that great. When you put a projection on the same wall as a bright TV the difference in brightness between the two images is extremely noticeable. The other problem was the size. The arms of the character on screen seemed comically large compared to what was visible on the television.
Of course these gripes hardly even compare to the other more obvious problems with Razer’s Project Ariana. For starters, how many people actually have a gaming environment where their television is mounted nearly flush to a large empty white wall? It’s also PC-only right now. Most PC gamers I know aren’t sitting 10 feet away from a television. They are sitting at a desk. Then there’s the fact that you’re going to need to buy an expensive 4k projector to supplement your expensive television that you already have. Then you’ll need to figure out how to get wires to the projector.
I know what many of you are thinking. You’re screaming at me, because I was excited when Microsoft announced Illumiroom. Now I’m shooting down a potential competitor. The simple fact is, I was never able to experience Illumiroom. At this point I’m confident that if the results from Microsoft’s R&D project were similar to Razer’s, I wouldn’t have liked that either. Razer does have time to attempt to fix some of these issues, as Project Ariana’s projector isn’t expected to hit the market until at least late 2017. Maybe when we come back to Vegas next year for CES we’ll be more impressed with what Razer has to show.