Lenovo Group’s smartwatch and smartphone prototypes it showcased at its first big tech conference in Beijing Thursday were clear indications of the Chinese PC maker’s ambitions.
Still, the prototypes, far from being ready for everyday usage, also showed that Lenovo still has a long way to go in its efforts to become a consumer technology leader.
Lenovo described one of the prototypes, called the Magic View, as the world’s first dual-screen smartwatch.
“Smartwatch screens are so tiny. Have you ever tried to follow a map on a smartwatch?” said Lenovo chief technology officer Peter Hortentious during his presentation on stage at the Lenovo Tech World conference. The company said the additional small screen, right below the face of the watch, allows the user to see a virtual image that looks much larger than the actual size of the screen, thanks to optical reflection technology.
That sounds good as a concept. But the actual Magic View watches exhibited at the conference didn’t live up to the promise of solving the problem of tiny watch screens. To view the enlarged virtual image, one had to look very closely in the extra screen with one eye, almost like peeking into a microscope. After testing it out, trying to view an image similar to a Google street view by peeking through the extra screen was an awkward experience.
The other prototype, a smartphone using a technology Lenovo calls Smart Cast, seemed to work better than the Magic View. The phone’s built-in laser projector allows users to project onto tables or walls images that are much larger than the phone’s screen. As the phone also has a motion detector, users can, for example, type with a virtual keyboard projected on a table.
To show off this technology at the conference, Lenovo invited renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang to perform on stage using piano keys projected on a table using a Smart Cast phone.
In the exhibition area where visitors were trying out the Smart Cast phone, some were playing video games by projecting the game on a white wall, while using the phone as a controller.
Still, while the projected images looked fairly sharp in the dark room, it wasn’t clear whether it could work in a brighter environment.
Lenovo said the two prototypes are concept products, meaning that the company has no concrete plans to commercialize them.