I have a small keyboard and trackpad on my lap. But there is no screen. At least not that you can see it. I have a workspace that wraps around and has dozens of open windows. I see it on AR glasses (with prescription inserts) sitting on my nose.
I first tried the Spacetop in Las Vegas in January, but the company that developed it, Sightful, is finally announcing the early access product experiment. I’ve seen loads of AR and VR headsets, but very few unique peripherals designed to work with these future goggles and goggles. Instead of games or social experiences, Spacetop’s main concern is turning laptops into AR-enabled devices with endless virtual displays.
If that sounds weird, remember I’ve experienced it before. I have paired Meta’s Quest Pro on my laptop to expand it virtually monitors around my head, and there are already many solutions like this that leverage available apps. The interfaces can be bulky and the hardware isn’t quite designed for mobile use. Spacetop’s keyboard base, with its own Qualcomm processor inside, acts as a spatially tracked anchor for the AR glasses to follow and for the levitating displays to follow. Tracking can work while traveling in a car or plane, and a key on the keyboard can make the floating displays disappear into space for a conversation and turn the virtual screens on and off.
The Spacetop comes with a pair real light It comes with AR glasses that need to be physically connected to the keyboard to work. Sightful’s founders plan on wireless options in the future, but currently believe the wired option is more reliable for consistent tracking. Also, the whole concept could later work with other AR and mixed reality headset hardware as well.
That would make sense considering how many devices should be on the go: Apple’s to startand whatever Samsung, Google and Qualcomm cook in the next year or so. The NReal glasses are fine, but they don’t work my own glasses. Instead, I had to use prescription inserts that Sightful makes for hardware buyers. The inserts I tried didn’t match up perfectly, but were enough to show that the screen resolution was more than good enough for viewing on the monitor. However, the field of view is narrower than most VR headsets: it can display something like a 40-inch TV screen across a table, but I have to turn my head to see the other floating windows of other minimized browsers in The Chrome -like software interface from Spacetop.
Zooming in displays or scrolling is done using the trackpad and keyboard. The keyboard itself is the interface.
The Sightful team has experience in AR: founders Tamir Berliner and Tomer Kahan came from Magic Leap, and Berliner also founded Primesense, the depth-sensing technology that powers Microsoft Kinect and that Apple acquired as the basis for its Face ID TrueDepth camera.
As Apple’s headset begins to envision how mixed reality might work with other devices — perhaps iPads or the Apple Watch — future glasses and goggles will begin to envision better with phones or laptops and other future tools. It makes sense that new peripherals would also appear — not just controllers, but tracking rings, wearable trackers, and a new wave of keyboards designed specifically for mixed reality.
I think Spacetop is a bit ahead of the curve here, and while it’s designed as a primary computer with its own headset, the future may belong to smart accessories that evolve from that idea and work with more headsets. If VR and AR are ever going to be more than just places for games, better tools of work must be introduced. Spacetop is quite an intriguing first step towards what I believe will be a lot more in this regard.