Acer announced and teased back in May 2021 SpatialLabs, a glasses-free stereo 3D display technology / product for 3D professionals such as CGI / CAD designers and engineers. What seemed like a distant technology, Acer has now brought to market as a product made by the ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition Laptop.
On its website, Acer presents the concept as follows: “Draft, review and present all of your designs in stunning, glasses-free stereoscopic 3D …
I have seen it for myself and it does better than I expected. First, let’s provide some background on how SpatialLabs works.
SpatialLabs is based on one Lenticular display technology that can work in 4K in 2D or 2x2K (2K per eye) in stereo 3D. Lenticular displays are built to show each eye a slightly different view of the scene, thus providing an a Depth perception that a normal screen simply cannot achieve.
Beyond the physical display panel Acer also provides software in the form of drivers, apps and utilities, for example to convert 2D content into stereo 3D content. The company also works closely with middleware developers such as unit or epic (Unreal Engine) to facilitate acceptance.
About 6-7 years ago, Japanese television manufacturers tried to commercialize glasses-free “holographic” 3D televisions based on lenticular technology. At that time, the result was unsatisfactory for several reasons in particular:
- Halving the 1080p resolution resulted in poor image quality
- Lenticular displays work best when the display is set to a specific user position and multiple people are watching TV
To See SpatialLabs with your own eyes, I have to say that some demos are very convincing. I can sit 20-27 inches from the display and the Acer software would adjust the 3D rendering for proper image separation and the rendering for the left + right eyes. Try to stay calm as there is a small delay between head movement and stereo compensation.
You can perceive Objects that “come out of the screen” up to half the distance between you and the screen surface (10-13 inches) which is impressive and works better with small objects right in the middle.
In my opinion, the depth hint can be useful (from a productivity point of view) to help you choose Professionals design the objects to be made later, as seeing them in 2D vs. stereo 3D is not quite the same.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to get a picture that reproduces exactly what I see. and 4x the resolution.
That would be a good approximation of what Acer SpatialLabs offers: far better image quality and ease of use.
For example, one of the demos was Showdown, and you can see the 2D version in the video below. There are tons of objects flying past the camera that “jump off the screen” when you have a stereo 3D setup like SpatialLabs.
Still, the 3D effect has characteristics of stereoscopic 2D: sometimes you see excessive parallax, and objects that are too close can be ghosted. However, if the content is tailored for stereo 3D these can easily be avoided.
Also, a laptop use case means that the user is usually sitting in the right place, right in front of the screen. Aside from that, Acer installed optical sensors to keep track of exactly where the user’s eyes are in the room to make adjustments in real time.
Jewelry, toys, spares, and more are great examples of industrial design activities that could benefit from better depth perception. The architecture could also benefit from this, as many models are built in these projects.
Realistically, lenticular 3D displays like this one won’t completely replace the need to model, 3D print, or prototype physical objects. However, you can reduce the frequency (and cost) that designers and engineers have to create expensive physical models. That’s valuable.
Waiting for physical prototypes can be shortened Acceleration of the “iteration loop” and increase the productivity of expensive personnel. If so, this is another level of potential added value. Every company has to assess the benefits for its specific use case, as this is a niche market for the time being.
With the improvement in display technology and with 8K displays on the horizon, I expect lenticular displays to keep improving. Right now the results are great and while not quite “holographic” just yet, Acer could lead an emerging niche market with high margins.
Pickled. Read more about Acer, CAD, Design, Stereo 3d and Workstations.
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