Spacetop: The new age of PCs is hands-free

Sightful, a start-up with sixty engineers including ex-Microsoft, Apple, and Magic Leap, presented Spacetop, a portable computer that replaces the display with a pair of AR glasses. It is a rather peculiar device that abandons the traditional 14-inch or 16-inch display in favour of a virtual monitor of no less than 100 inches. The computer’s use is strictly dependent on that of the supplied glasses, which are connected to the PC via a non-removable cable. The project took more than three years to complete and is available for purchase for around 2000 euros but by invitation only.

The advantages are several, starting, of course, with the work area available to the user, which allows a more significant number of windows to be managed quickly and optimally. In this way, the user can view many more applications simultaneously without having to juggle between them. Of course, it is also possible to manage each window individually, perhaps enlarging the size of one if necessary. However, in some tests, it became necessary to centre the screen several times – the software allows you to set it fixed so that it rotates following the orientation of your eyes. In this case, simply direct your gaze at the one in question and use gestures directly from the touchpad.

An interesting aspect concerns the software since the laptop’s operating system is Spacetop OS. This was developed from the Android Open Source Project, the freely available version of the Google system. This means it lacks the Play Store and the corresponding support for applications in the catalogue. Sightful emphasizes that the computer is oriented towards the use of web applications. On the other hand, rather than exploiting software installation, it collects links to solutions such as Google Workspace. In this regard, the company makes it clear that if an application is available via the web, then Spacetop is able to support it, and among these are many professional solutions such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.


Welcome hands-free

We are indeed talking about a productivity-oriented device, although performance is not exactly its strong point. In terms of hardware, the laptop uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor supported by 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB for storage. There are, however, two USB Type-C ports with support for PD (Power Delivery) 3.0 up to 65W for charging the battery, which should guarantee up to 6 hours of battery life. Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 and 5G connectivity are also present. Basically, in short, it is a mobile device.

As for the goggles, on the other hand, they are produced by Nreal, a company specializing in this type of peripheral and can accommodate graduated lenses. The resolution is 1080p with a refresh rate of 75 Hz per lens, which provides a similar experience to a traditional 2K monitor. While fundamentally an interesting design that attempts to provide a real-world scope for augmented reality, Monica Chin of The Verge wanted more from her test. This is because the ‘viewer’ mounts completely transparent optics that allow the user to remain in contact with the surrounding environment both when it is on and when it is off.

Only in Early Access

In particular, the performance of the available hardware often proved to be inadequate, displaying stalls or even freezes that forced a reboot of the machine. At the same time, when the test proceeded smoothly, even the user experience did not find it particularly exciting. The main limitation lies in the size of the virtual screen, which, although it allows a significantly greater number of windows to be kept open than a traditional monitor, can never be viewed in its entirety. This makes it more difficult to search for a window, forcing one to continually move one’s gaze over the entire diagonal of the screen and making it easier to lose sight of the pointer in such a large area.

On this last point, Sightful has already anticipated that with the next updates, the cursor will automatically move to the area the user is focused on. It is evident that even the interface is still premature. On the other hand, Sightful has defined the Spacetop as an ‘Early Access’ device, a sign that there is still a long way to go before promoting a version aimed at the mass market. In any case, this is a real novelty in the laptop sector, and it will be interesting to follow its progress and, above all, to understand whether it will prove to be a ‘game changer’ in the profession too.

Antonino Caffo has been involved in journalism, particularly technology, for fifteen years. He is interested in topics related to the world of IT security but also consumer electronics. Antonino writes for the most important Italian generalist and trade publications. You can see him, sometimes, on television explaining how technology works, which is not as trivial for everyone as it seems.