It’s been 100 years since the first Z1 computer was made in the 1930s, and computers have come a long way since then. The Z1 was followed by large machines, such as ENIAC, which occupied entire rooms. In the 1960s, computers moved from professional to personal use when the first PC was introduced to the public. In 1990, Intel began producing the first processor for mobile personal computers – Intel386SL, and computers began to spread even more under a new look. Computers today, including tablets and smartphones, come in all shapes and sizes.
What will the next generation of computers look like? It can be assumed that the next step will be the integration of AI into personal computers or working on a computer through AR / VR. It would be natural. And if we can observe the development of AI with our own eyes, then things are not so good with AR / VR. That’s the category startup Sightful hopes to push with its new “augmented reality laptop,” which combines AR glasses and a keyboard to fit a 100-inch desktop into a backpack.
Spacetop is a compact computer developed by Israeli startup Sightful that only has a keyboard, trackpad, and HD augmented reality glasses. It is positioned as the world’s first “augmented reality laptop”. While the laptop is clearly thicker than a 13-inch laptop, it’s just as light and portable. There is no monitor on this device, making it just the bottom half of a standard laptop. Wearing glasses, the user can project a 100-inch augmented reality screen wherever they are. There are already those who managed to test the laptop and almost all of them have the same conclusions and impressions.
What We Found When Researching About Spacetop
At first glance, this is really impressive technology. The user can have a good view of their desktop, but can also see what is behind and around it so they can move around using the device.
The best way to describe the experience of using Spacetop, which runs a custom operating system called Spacetop OS, is as if a giant projector were projecting your desktop screen into the air in front of you. This projection stays fixed in place – it won’t follow you as you walk – and you’ll see different parts of the screen as you move your head, thanks to the head-tracking camera. It differs from a projector in that you are the only one who can see what is being projected.
Similar to the Chromebook, the Android-based Spacetop OS user interface runs on cloud or web apps and has a taskbar, app drawer, and multi-window support.
The keyboard has a 5-megapixel camera (2560 x 1920 resolution) that can be used for video calls. With 1080p resolution on each eye, graphics and text look sharp enough to work with for long periods of time. You can also move freely around the room – all you need to do to align the windows is to press two buttons.
Actually, only two new key functions have been added:
- Pressing both Shift buttons resets the screen and centers it.
- Along with the function keys at the top of the keyboard, a dedicated user button minimizes the augmented reality screen.
While Spacetop’s focused features and all-in-one design may have some virtual desktop performance benefits, the main display-related issues remain; in particular: field of view, resolution, sweet spot, and comfort.
More About Spacetop
Spacetop uses a pair of custom Nreal Light goggles with 6 degrees of freedom head tracking, a 60° field of view, and 1920×1080 resolution per eye. The glasses are augmented reality, not virtual reality, so you can see through their clear glass and screens even when the power is off. When turned on, a set of tiny 1080P displays appear that give the illusion of a 2K display to the eyes. As the user looks around, the screens follow the software creating a virtual 100-inch display. The glasses also have two small speakers located next to the ears, but not above the ears, as in the Bose Frame glasses. The sound is quiet enough not to be heard by others. This provides a private listening experience but lacks bass.
The glasses are lightweight and comfortable to wear for long periods of time, unlike other smart glasses. Users who wear real glasses or contact lenses can order special Spacetop AR glasses with a prescription. While portability and a 100-inch monitor are nice, not everyone likes the idea of sitting around wearing augmented reality glasses all day. If you are sitting in a coffee shop, you can be sure that no one else will see what you are working on. But at the same time, although there are no fancy gesture controls, the “weird” glasses will draw too much attention to you.
Nreal Glass and Spacetop
While the Nreal glasses aren’t heavy, their relatively small field of view is in direct conflict with the idea of having a huge virtual desktop ready to go at any time. Instead of moving your head and eyes slightly, you will need to actively move your head to bring the augmented reality screen into the frame, which can be motion-sick. This problem is often exacerbated by the fact that the image at the edges becomes more blurred when the eyes are rotated.
And given that Nreal glasses use transparent displays, this makes resolution and legibility difficult, as windows floating in front of you will always have some level of transparency.
The most serious disadvantage is the narrow field of view of 60 degrees and the lack of peripheral vision. Therefore, you will not be able to see the whole 100-inch space. Instead, you’re looking through a smaller viewport that isn’t sized in Sightful’s spec. Anything outside your immediate field of vision is dark. Of course, Spacetop can technically display many more windows than you could fit into a 13-inch screen, but you can still only see a few (same as on a 13-inch screen).
This created some funny cases where, during the demo, users lost their cursor somewhere off to the side and couldn’t find it, or forgot where they put the tab and turned their heads around trying to find it. Sightful says that in future updates, the cursor will immediately move to where the user’s eyes are directed.
Specifications of Spacetop
- Chips: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, Kryo 585 TM 8-core 64-bit processor, frequency up to 3.1 GHz AdrenoTM 650
- GPU Memory: 8 GB
- Memory: 256 GB
- Fast charge PD 3.0 (up to 65 W) Charging with 0% up to 85% in less than 2 hours
- SuperSpeed USB up to 10 Gbps
- DisplayPort 1.4 (Full-HD external display supported)
- Keyboard and touchpad: Full-size keyboard and interactive touchpad
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1 functions, 5G NR Sub-6
Specification in Detail
The laptop runs its own Spacetop OS operating system. Sightful says it chose the 865 in part because of its real-time computer vision capabilities combined with extremely low battery consumption. The user also gets 8 gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of disk space. In terms of battery life, Sightful claims five hours of full use, which is a bit short compared to other laptops that average nine or 10 hours (or more). The set of ports consists of two USB-C, one of which will be occupied by the charger most of the time.
Judging by these characteristics alone, this is not a heavy-duty machine. The performance of the laptop also leaves much to be desired. For testers, the laptop crashed during the demo session and had to be rebooted. For some, scrolling and loading windows was slow, and YouTube videos were freezing. Sightful says the first batch of 1,000 devices will only be for people whose workload is web applications. That is, gamers and video editors should not buy this laptop.
Spacetop with Snapdragon 865 chip definitely can’t compete with regular laptops in terms of speed and performance. Spacetop is also not suitable for multitasking. The laptop is not designed to handle intensive, graphics-intensive jobs or power-hungry programs. At best, you’ll be able to use it for basic tasks like web browsing, sending emails, video chatting, and messaging at the same time. But even here, Spacetop, in its current iteration, is not ready to carry out its own mission. Its chip is optimally designed to run only a few tabs at a time. Opening more than ten tabs will stress the hardware.
The Evolution of Computers
Is this a future new round in the evolution of computers? Not yet. But if improved versions come out, for users who prefer a large personal workspace, the gadget can become a really useful everyday tool. Spacetop can be effective during a flight or train ride. Spacetop’s debut set the stage for the next step in computing, but its successor will need a wider field of view and more power to make it into everyone’s everyday gadget.
So far the pros have not outweighed the cons. It’s unlikely that Spacetop (or any virtual desktop app, for that matter) will catch on until it can essentially perfectly reproduce a basic 1080p laptop display, let alone an unlimited virtual desktop full of application windows.
To date, developments in the field of AR and VR are only doubtful, especially when it comes to the workplace. We still don’t use Meta Horizon Workrooms Meta Horizon; It turns out that the only thing worse than a work meeting via AR/VR helmets is a work meeting where you’re teleported into a cartoony conference room where you sit next to cowering avatars of your colleagues.
Tech giants aside, Spacetop isn’t the only startup working to bring augmented reality to the masses. Another example is the Nimo augmented reality smart glasses, which are still somewhere in the purgatory of gadgets. These examples can teach us the value of “boring” laptops, monitors, and webcams.
Perhaps the current laptop market is boring and outdated, and Spacetop brings a much-needed dose of innovation. However, there is a reason modern computers look the way they do. A device that is going to shake up the market must first and foremost address the reasons why this market works.