First it was the desktop. Then the laptop. And now, the… space apex? That’s the category Sightful wants to conquer with its new “augmented reality laptop,” which combines augmented reality glasses with a keyboard and allows you to fit a massive virtual desktop in your backpack.
Stealth startup Sightful today unveiled Spacetop, an “augmented reality laptop” that turns AR glasses into a large virtual desktop computing environment. The company announced that it is attracting interest from those interested in participating in the Early Access rollout of the product, which will cost $2,000 for the complete Spacetop computer. Only 1,000 units will initially be available, with deliveries beginning in July.
Sightful, previously called Multinarity, says it has raised $61 million in funding so far, with the main investors being Corner Ventures and Aleph Capital.
While we’ve seen plenty of other “virtual desktop” applications in the PC VR and standalone space, Sightful is attempting to come full circle in increasing virtual desktop productivity… well, actually productive.
The company hopes its all-in-one product – which essentially consists of the bottom half of a laptop, tethered AR glasses, and a custom software environment – will deliver a streamlined virtual desktop experience that’s easy to use. Spacetop has a dock of sorts for storing the goggles and a “lid” so the entire unit is portable.
According to Sightful, Spacetop uses custom-made Nreal Light AR glasses with 6DOF head-tracking, a 53° field of view and a resolution of 1,920×1,080 per eye.
Inside the spacetop base (which includes a full keyboard, trackpad, and USB and DisplayPort ports) is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and enough battery for a claimed 5 hours of work. There’s even a built-in webcam for video calls (although you might look a bit odd if you’re wearing sunglasses with a cable sticking out while on video).
And yes, you read that right; A Snapdragon processor doesn’t run Windows, but rather the company’s own “Spacetop OS”, which is presumably built on top of Android, although the company hasn’t said anything about compatibility with Android applications; Instead, it appears the first release of Spacetop will run almost exclusively on web apps, providing an essentially unlimited virtual desktop on which to place them.
If you’ve ever used a Chromebook, you know that you can actually get quite a lot done with web-only apps these days, but anyone hoping for serious desktop productivity and applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Blender has won. I won’t be seeing them on Spacetop any time soon.
The company does not try to hide this fact.
“Sightful encourages people who love being first and looking to the future, who work on the go, who live mostly in web apps, to come and (…) buy Spacetop,” reads its announcement. “Potential customers looking for a hardcore gaming machine or a video editing monster machine are better off waiting for a future generation.”
The company also states at this point that it isn’t focused on leveraging AR’s unique 3D or spatial capabilities (no 3D models floating in the air in front of you), nor is it working on novel inputs (none special gestures). move window with hands); All of this is a good idea in my opinion – it’s good to walk before you run.
While Spacetop’s focused features and all-in-one design may bring some benefits to virtual desktop productivity, the main challenges in unlocking this use case lie in more than just creating a dedicated software environment and bundling all the elements together .
Over the years I’ve tried countless variations of XR headsets and virtual desktop software, including using it with a dedicated keyboard, mouse, and even a full Mac and Windows environment. While I actually have all the computing power and features I need for my day-to-day workflow, core issues related to the displays remain; specifically: field of view, resolution, sweet spot and comfort.
While the Nreal goggles aren’t particularly heavy, their relatively small field of view is in direct contradiction to the idea of always having a huge virtual desktop at the ready. Instead of turning your head and eyes just a little to see one monitor or the other with real side-by-side monitors, you have to move your head a lot more to “frame” a comparatively large virtual window, which is possible it quickly becomes uncomfortable.
This problem is often compounded on many headsets by a small sweet spot that causes the display to blur at the edges when you turn your eyes, meaning you have to center almost your entire head on whatever window you’re viewing at maximum want to see fidelity.
And considering the Nreal glasses use transparent displays, that makes resolution and readability a challenge, as the windows floating in front of you always have some level of transparency.
As someone who has tried many similar solutions over the years, the pros still don’t outweigh the cons. Personally, I don’t think Spacetop (or any virtual desktop application for that matter) will catch on until it’s able to essentially create a perfect replica of a basic 1080p laptop display like the one in real life right in front of it not to mention an unlimited virtual desktop with a plethora of application windows floating around you.