First it was the desktop. Then the laptop. And now, the… spacetop? That’s the category that Sightful hopes to carve out with its new “augmented reality laptop” which combines a pair of augmented reality glasses with a keyboard, allowing you to put a huge virtual desktop in your backpack.

Stealth startup Sightful today revealed Spacetop, an “augmented reality laptop” that turns a pair of AR goggles into a large virtual desktop computing environment. The company announced that it is soliciting interest for those who would like to be part of the product’s early access launch, which will cost $2,000 for the complete Spacetop computer. Purportedly only 1,000 units will be available at the outset, with shipments beginning this July.

Sightful, which was previously called Multinarity, says it has raised $61 million in funding to date, with its lead investors being Corner Ventures and Aleph Capital.

While we’ve seen many other ‘virtual desktop’ applications in the PC VR and standalone space, Sightful is trying to close the loop on making virtual desktop productivity… well, actually productive.

Image courtesy Sightful

The company is hoping its all-in-one product—which essentially consists of the bottom half of a laptop, a pair of tethered AR goggles, and a custom software environment—will make for a streamlined virtual desktop experience that’s easy to use. Spacetop has a sort of dock in which to stow the glasses, and a ‘lid’, allowing the entire unit to be portable.

Image courtesy Sightful

Sightful says Spacetop uses a pair of customized Nreal Light AR goggles with 6DOF head-tracking, a 53° field-of-view, and 1,920 × 1,080 resolution per-eye.

Inside the Spacetop base (which includes a full keyboard, trackpad, and USB & DisplayPort ports) is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, along with enough battery for a claimed 5 hours of work. There’s even a built-in webcam for video calls (though you might look a little strange wearing sunglasses with a cord coming out of them while you’re on video).

Image courtesy Sightful

And yes, you read that right; with a Snapdragon processor this won’t be running Windows but rather the company’s own ‘Spacetop OS’, which we presume is built atop Android, though the company hasn’t said anything about compatibility with Android applications; instead it seems the first version of Spacetop will run almost exclusively on web apps, providing an essentially unlimited virtual desktop upon which to place them.

If you’ve ever used a Chromebook, you’ll know that you can actually get quite a bit done these days operating purely on web apps, but anyone hoping for serious desktop productivity and applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Blender, you won’t see them on Spacetop any time soon.

For what it’s worth, the company isn’t trying to hide that fact.

“Sightful is encouraging people who love to be first and look into the future, who work on the go, who live largely in Web apps to come and purchase […] Spacetop,” the company says in its announcement. “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.”

Image courtesy Sightful

The company also says at this point it isn’t focused on leveraging the unique 3D or spatial capabilities that come with AR (no 3D models floating in the air in front of you), nor are they working on any novel inputs (no special gestures to move windows with your hands); all of which is a good idea in my book—its good to walk before you run.

While Spacetop’s focused features and all-in-one design may have some benefits for virtual desktop productivity, the key challenges to unlocking this use-case are about more than just about creating a dedicated software environment and packaging everything together.

Over the years I’ve tried countless variations of XR headsets and virtual desktop software, including using them with a dedicated keyboard, mouse, and even a full Mac and Windows environments. Despite having all of the actual computing power and features I need for my daily workflow, core issues relating to the displays remain; notably: field-of-view, resolution, sweet spot, and comfort.

While the Nreal goggles aren’t terribly heavy, their relatively tiny field-of-view is in direct conflict with the idea of having a massive virtual desktop ready whenever you go. Instead of rotating your head and eyes just a bit to see one monitor or the other with real side-by-side monitors, you’ll need to move your head way more to bring a comparatively sized virtual window ‘into frame’, which can become uncomfortable quickly.

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This issue is often amplified by a small sweet spot on many headsets which means that as you rotate your eyes the display becomes blurrier at the edges, meaning you need to nearly center your entire head on any window you want to see at maximum fidelity.

And considering the Nreal goggles use transparent displays, this makes resolution and legibility a challenge because the windows floating in front of you will always have some level of transparency.

As someone who has tried many similar solutions over the years, the pros have yet to outweigh the cons. I don’t personally see Spacetop (or for that matter, any virtual desktop application) catching on in a big way until it’s capable of essentially a perfect replication of a basic 1080p laptop display as it would look in real life right in front of you, let alone an unlimited virtual desktop with a plethora of application windows floating around you.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Guest

    There are AR displays out there that can display text fine but getting it to display fine with tracking is the hard part.

  • Alright this is the first time that I actually see a truly scammy XR product. This is literally just a laptop from which they ripped the display and paired it with glasses. Do you want to know, which product is even more practical? A normal laptop paired with glasses.

    You can right know buy any laptop, pair it with glasses and have a much better experience with a real OS and a laptop screen when you need to show something to a colleague. And for cheaper.

    They literally removed features (screen and OS) and are selling it as unique selling points. The reason is that they need to sell a promise of owning the whole platform to the investors.

    This is literally a scam on investors and will be obliterated by Apple, Microsoft or by easily cobling it up together on your own.

  • gothicvillas

    Wow these guys got a nerve selling underpowered laptop without a screen for 2k

  • Ookami

    I guess this sounds pretty interesting. Makes me wonder if we’ll see this sort of thing with windows laptops someday. Still lacks the convivence of a screen if you’re doing other stuff at the same time, because you’d have to take the glasses off and on.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    A lot of the features seem to derive from limits of the Nreal glasses themselves. Both the Nreal Air and Light AR glasses are designed to be run from an Android phone. You can connect them to a PC and use them as a (dumb) secondary display, but without driver support this doesn’t use the head tracking, the image is fixed to the direction of your head. This can be enough for some uses cases, for example a lot of Steam Deck fans use the Nreal Air to play games on a large virtual screen instead of the integrated 7″ display.

    If you want to use the Nreal as with Spacetop and switch between different apps on a larger virtual canvas, you have to use Android. There is Nreal MacOS support in beta, but it only allows you to switch between several virtual desktops that MacOS supports by default, while the “Spacetop OS” seems to be Android with a dedicated window server that allows placing windows freely “in space”, which IMHO is a necessity to make AR/VR displays useful for traditional 2D productivity apps. Just emulating regular screens makes little sense, in XR you can have windows arranged in 360° around you, so limiting this to a virtual copy of the rectangular boxes called displays we need to show documents outside of XR throws away all those benefits.

    There is no trivial way to replace or extend the windows manager in either MacOS or Windows, you are stuck with whatever Apple or Microsoft has come with, so you end up with exactly that undesirable simulation of physical monitors with all their limits, even if you enable head tracking. Android on the other hand is open source, allowing for the needed changes, which is also the reason pretty much all VR standalone HMDs are based on it. So Android with a custom window manager running web apps was pretty much the best Sightful could do with moderate effort, which explains the weird pseudo-half-Chromebook running a mobile SoC and most likely an also modified web browser that works with their window manager. Which severally limits its usefulness.

    There would actually be a way around this. A similar windows manager called SimulaVR, using Godot as a rendering engine, has existed for Linux for several years. Some may remember their USD 2700 “Simula One” 2.5K per eye Linux standalone HMD for exactly this use case that is supposed to ship at the end of 2023. With SimulaVR you can not only place some special modified apps freely in space, but any application window, which would include Windows apps run with WINE. SimulaVR is SteamVR compatible with experimental OpenXR support, so in theory the only thing missing would be drivers from Nreal for Linux to use the Nreal Light in a similar way like Spacetop, but from a regular laptop capable of running regular Windows apps. Which would probably make a lot more sense. I really like the Spacetop concept, but the technical limits and the consequently somewhat weird implementation by Sightful restricts it so much that in its current iteration it is useful only for a few very specific use cases.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    The 3DoF Nreal Air are USD 379, but Spacetop uses modified 6DoF Nreal Light that were sold for USD 499, but seem to be no longer directly available and now sell for more on ebay. Though this doesn’t improve the value proposition by a lot. You mostly pay for small unit numbers and the development of the custom software necessary to make this work with a modified Android version.