New Spacetop Laptop Puts Your Workspace in the Air
Imagine opening your laptop to get some work done and not needing a screen to view it. Instead, you slip on a pair of glasses connected to the unit and observe your desktop workspace — complete with all your websites and apps — floating in the air before you. Using the keyboard as you would normally, you can check email correspondence, join a Zoom video conference or create a memo as you would with a physical screen — only no one but you can see what you’re working on.
As of May 18, you don’t need to imagine this. This is now a reality because of something called a Spacetop, which its newly out-of-stealth parent company, Sightful, unabashedly describes as “the world’s first AR-enabled laptop computer.” One thousand Spacetops — sans physical screens — became available for early access previews today.
A Spacetop can be used virtually anywhere, but it is especially cool when being used on a plane, where there’s little room around you to maneuver a single-screen laptop. The Spacetop simply overlays all your websites and apps over flight attendants, backs of seats and other passengers in front of you.
Next Step in Personal Computing?
Three years in development and created by a team of more than 60 spatial computing experts — including veterans from Apple, Microsoft and Magic Leap — Spacetop is a legitimate candidate to represent the next generation in personal computing. Sightful CEO Tamir Berliner claims this is the first application of augmented reality that can fit directly into a user’s daily life. Up to now, AR has established legitimate use cases in the entertainment, manufacturing, technical trade, scientific and military sectors. But it hasn’t yet broken into daily business or consumer workflows.
With customized hardware and a proprietary spatial environment, Spacetop uses AR to remove the physical constraints of standard laptops. Thus, the virtual desktop you see with this product averages about 100 inches in width — a far cry from the 13- or 14-inch laptops commonly used today. The result is a first-of-its-kind product that allows users to carry with them a massive private, virtual workspace designed and customized by themselves.
“Laptops have been important to all of us for decades, but the technology has not evolved with the work-from-anywhere, privacy-matters-type mentality,” Berliner told The New Stack. “Meanwhile, augmented reality is full of potential and promise, but it is yet to find its daily use case. We are at the perfect moment for a significant paradigm shift in a device we all know and love, and Spacetop Early Access is the first step in that journey.”
Spacetop users can create their own workspace, with as many virtual monitors as they need. They can also customize the layout of their workspace to fit their individual needs. This allows them to focus on their work without being distracted by clutter or unnecessary windows. Spacetop also works with existing browsers and other software, so users can continue to use their regular applications, Berliner said.
Spacetop also offers a high level of privacy because the user’s workspace is completely invisible to anyone not using the device, he said.
The Early Access program is designed and intended for enthusiastic early adopters of category-changing technology, Berliner said. “Sightful is encouraging people who love to be first, and work on the go, largely in Web apps, to come and purchase an EA Spacetop,” he said. “However, potential customers looking for a hard-core gaming rig or a video-editing monster machine would be better served to wait for a future generation.”
While Spacetop Early Access devices deliver the full AR laptop experience, the feedback from these users will be used to tailor the device hardware and software experience and will directly influence the launch of Spacetop V1. Berliner said.
Laptop Built by Wistron, an OEM of Dell and HP
Spacetop hardware combines two significant vendors in both personal computing and augmented reality: Taiwan’s Wistron (laptop body) and China’s NReal (glasses). The Spacetop runs on a proprietary version of Android built by the Sightful team, Berliner said.
“We’re expecting a lot of good use case ideas to come from outside the company and from the open source community,” Berliner said. “We look at the Spacetop as a foundation for many new AR applications we’ve never thought of previously. In fact, we have no idea what direction the Spacetop is going to take us in the future!”
A personal note: Whether on a Zoom call, working in Google Docs, reviewing a Figma design, or browsing the web, I found in my own demonstration session that the Spacetop environment feels responsive and easy to navigate while still allowing me to interact normally with people around me.
The Spacetop Early Access program (the laptop costs $2000) is now open with 1,000 early adopters invited to join. Those interested in being the first to receive their Spacetop can apply at www.sightful.com. Anyone can apply to be among the first to own a Spacetop; those selected will begin receiving their devices in early July.
Sightful is an HCI company (human-computer interaction) founded in 2020 by spatial computing veterans Berliner (PrimeSense, acquired by Apple, Magic Leap), and Tomer Kahan (Broadcom, N-trig acquired by Microsoft, Magic Leap). The company has a team of 60-plus employees with expertise in product management, UX/UI, core software, cloud, applications, marketing, computer vision, systems, and design. Investors include Corner Ventures, Aleph, and others; it is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, and has offices in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Taiwan, and Singapore.