TCL's rollable phone concept has me on the edge of my seat, but the company's hoping to push beyond TVs and mobile. Project Archery 2.0, a pair of high-resolution video glasses that were apparently announced at CES to little fanfare, is another concept TCL is batting around.
Not an AR or VR headset — TCL made it very clear to me that Project Archery 2.0 is not an AR or VR headset. It's not competing against the Oculus Rift or Quest or HTC Vive and it's not gunning for existing AR glasses like Nreal. Nor is it gunning for Apple or Facebook's rumored AR headsets.
Project Archery 2.0 is strictly for playing videos. Using two custom full HD displays, the headset combines the two to form a virtual 100-inch TV visible only to the wearer; it's like having a personal theater. They're basically improved versions of video glasses like Zeiss's Cinemizer and Sony's Personal 3D Viewer.
Crisp image quality — Look, Project Archery 2.0 is just a concept, meaning it may never be commercialized, which sucks because they're pretty sweet. That said, if there's enough of a value proposition, TCL says it could produce them. Think of the product as a reference design or a proof-of-concept.
I had a chance to try it on, and as someone who owns a Personal 3D Viewer (I thought it was cool and it was on firesale many moons ago) and occasionally watches Netflix in a VR theater with Oculus Quest, I found the picture quality to be pretty great. The headset connects to a smartphone via a cable to play content. There's a teensy bit of transparency around the glasses so you can still see what's going on around you while you enjoy Uncut Gems.
The main downside to past video glasses like the Cinemizer and Personal 3D Viewer was that the resolution sucked. The Cinemizer was only capable of displaying a 40-inch screen with 870 x 500 resolution — not even HD! The Personal 3D Viewer could display a virtual 750-inch display, but at 720p resolution, movies looked bad.
Project Archery 2.0 projected a very crisp 100-inch TV at full HD resolution. I watched three demo videos that showed off the screen's brightness, color vibrancy, and contrast. While I didn't feel the screen was quite as large as a real 100-inch TV from about 11.5 feet away, the picture quality was definitely top-notch.
Navigation and controls are done with eye-tracking.
Navigation and controls are done with eye-tracking. All I had to do was look at a button and keep my gaze on it to select it. It felt very responsive and not like some half-baked demo that's usually the case with many concept devices.
For long commutes or flights — Anything you wear on your face is going to look dorky. But if you can get over what everyone around you thinks, there may be real utility to Project Archery. I could see myself using them on a flight or the backseat of a car. TCL says it has shown the headset in Japan and gotten feedback that it could be great for long train rides (like on bullet trains). The experience obviously isn't as immersive as VR, but at least you can't get motion sickness?
As a concept, there's no release date or pricing at this time. Would I wear and use Project Archery 2.0? Hell yeah I would! But TCL needs to work on comfort; the adjustment dial on the back of the visor and the padding around the forehead and nose need a lot more work. Good thing it's not for sale.