Back in May 2021, Acer announced and teased SpatialLabs, a technology / product of stereo 3D display without glasses that is intended for 3D professionals such as CGI / CAD designers and engineers. What seemed like a distant technology, Acer has now launched as a product embodied in the ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition laptop.
On its website, Acer presents the concept as follows: “Design, preview and present all your designs in a stereoscopic 3D format without glasses that will catch your eye … allowing visual artists and engineers to get an early overview of their work without the need for by rendering. “
I managed to convince myself of that and it showed a better effect than I expected. First, let’s provide a background on how SpatialLabs works.
SpatialLabs is built on a lenticular display technology which can operate in 4K in 2D or 2x2K (2K per eye) in stereo 3D. Lenticular displays are made to show each eye a slightly different view of the scene, thus creating a depth perception which an ordinary screen simply cannot achieve.
In addition to the physical display, Acer also offers software in the form of drivers, applications, and utilities to do things like convert 2D content to stereo-3D content. The company also works closely with middleware developers such as Unity or Epic (Unreal Engine) to facilitate adoption.
~ 6-7 years ago, Japanese TV manufacturers tried to commercialize “holographic” 3D glasses-free TVs based on lenticular technology. At that time, the result was not satisfactory, primarily for several reasons:
- Dividing 1080p resolution in half resulted in poor image quality
- Lenticular displays work best when the screen is set to a specific user position and more people may be watching TV
Later to see SpatialLabs with my own eyes, I have to say that some demos are very convincing. I can sit 20-27 inches from the screen and Acer’s software would adjust the 3D display to properly separate and render the left and right eye images. Try to stay calm as there is a small delay between head movement and stereo compensation.
You can see objects “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 for small objects, right in the middle.
In my opinion, the depth label can be useful (from a productivity standpoint) for selection professionals who design objects to be produced later because it’s not quite the same to see them in 2D versus stereo 3D.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible for me to make an image that would accurately represent what I see, but if you’ve already experienced 3D TVs with glasses, try to imagine your best experience, but without glasses, almost perfect stereo separation, and 4x resolution.
That would be a good approximation of what Acer SpatialLabs offers: extremely superior image quality and user experience.
For example, one of the demos was “Showdown,” and you can see the 2D version in the video below. There are plenty of objects flying next to the camera and “popping out of the screen” if you have a stereo 3D setting like SpatialLabs.
Still, the 3D effect has the characteristics of stereoscopic 2D: sometimes you see excessive parallax, and objects that are too close can show some ghosts. But when content is tailored for stereo 3D, they are easy to avoid.
Also, the case of using a laptop means that the user usually sits in a suitable location, right in front of the screen. Furthermore, Acer has installed optical sensors to track exactly where the user’s eyes are in space, to make adjustments in real time.
Jewelry, toys, spare parts and more are great examples of industrial design activities that could benefit from a better perception of depth. Architecture could also benefit from this, as a large number of models are constructed during these projects.
Realistically, lenticular 3D displays like this will not completely replace the need for sculpting, 3D printing, or prototyping physical objects. However, they can reduce the frequency (and cost) at which designers and engineers need to build expensive physical models. It’s worth it.
Reducing the wait for physical prototypes can speed up the “iteration loop” and increase the productivity of expensive staff. If true, it is another layer of potential added value. Each company will have to evaluate the benefits for its specific use case because it is a niche market, for now.
As display technology gets better and better with 8K screens on the horizon, I expect lenticular displays to improve further. For now, the results are great and although not yet completely “holographic”, Acer could be a leader in the emerging high-margin niche market.
Reported. Read more about Acer, CAD, design, Stereo 3d and workstations.
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