Last year, I was both awed and terrified by the massive Acer Thronos gaming chair. It was a huge, mechanical monstrosity with three screens attached to an LED-encrusted metal arm that swooped down over your head, and you knew the moment you'd locked its fold-out keyboard tray into place that it was going to eat you alive and never let you leave.
Thankfully, Razer's new Eracing Simulator Concept chair setup is a little less terrifying on that front, mostly because it looks like you're free to leave at any given moment, but its wrap-around projection screen and hydraulic racing seat setup are no less impressive. As the name implies (and has been a running theme with the most interesting things to come out of this year's CES tech fest), it's just a concept right now, but here's what your next racing setup could look like very soon.
The Eracing Simulator Concept is actually the work of several companies in addition to Razer. Vesaro, Simpit, Fanatec and Synthesis VR all had a hand in the creation of this mega racing setup, and would presumably reprise their various roles if and when Razer turn it into a proper product.
Fanatec were responsible for the driver controls, providing an anodized aluminium and carbon fibre steering wheel wrapped in leather, magnetic paddles, adjustable buttons for changing gear and the like as well as the three-pedal system that goes under your feet, while Simpit were on board to provide the surrounding visuals. These are beamed onto a 128in custom projection screen from two Full HD projectors housed in that giant lamp-like object suspended above your head, offering a ludicrous 202-degree field of view as you zoom around the race track.
Vesaro, meanwhile, bring their expertise in custom, modular simulator chassis to pull the whole thing together. Sitting at the heart of it is a hand-crafted core that sits on a motion platform powered by two actuators. There's also a gaming control box for professional racing training setups that can map terrain surfaces, G-force and sounds and translate it into all the bumps, whizzes and vrooms (I know my car noises, honest) so it really feels like you're right there on the track. Plus, the modular nature of it means that Razer's Eracing Simulator Concept could technically be morphed into other things further down the line (just think of the flight sim possibilities with this thing!).
Finally, you've got a G-force simulating racing harness to top it all off. This applies pressure to your body to mimic things like accelerating really fast or careering round a tight corner, and almost definitely won't lock you into the chair and never let you out again.
As for Razer, it looks like they're going to be investing quite heavily in competitive eracing going forward, developing their sim systems with their partners and maybe even putting together some dedicated leagues and competitions. Indeed, their global esports director David Tse says that competitive eracing is "an untapped by growing sector of esports" and that Razer "are ready to invest resources into growing this area of competition".
Vesaro's CEO and designer Nevil Slade is also well up for the whole thing, too: "We are very excited to be working alongside Razer as they enter the racing esports space at CES 2020; combining one of our professional grade systems with Razer's racing sim effort, we can't wait to see how this will push virtual racing further into the mainstream spotlight and take the sport to the next level."
Personally, I'm still waiting for Razer to make good on their Hypersense haptic feedback concept system I saw at last year's CES, but any challengers to the mighty Thronos throne are also incredibly welcome in my books. If we can avert that hellish future of gamer-enslaving mega chairs, I'm all for it.
For more news from this year's CES, check out our CES 2020 tag.