You probably won’t see them in stores this year, but the concepts Lenovo showed off at their Tech World event in Beijing this week were probably the most tantalizing parts of the show. The headliners were two devices that rely on projection to expand what you can do with otherwise standard devices.
Those two concepts were takes on the smartwatch and the smartphone. The former is called the Magic View — a smartwatch that can project a second screen up to 20 times the size of the smartwatch display. With that, Lenovo says you can watch videos or look at photos — admittedly, not very compelling uses, seeing as how if you’re on the go, you’d probably want to do both with the higher resolution displays on smartphones. More interesting is the idea of using that projected display to show a map of your current location. Smartwatches are more handy than smartphones for navigation when you’re walking or cycling, but the small screen can be hard to see. Trying to navigate a new city on the fly could be a lot easier if you find a blank wall to project a map onto.
For smartphones, Lenovo introduced Smart Cast. Smart Cast also uses projection, along with infrared sensors that help to create a virtual touchscreen similar to what Intel demonstrated last year with their RealSense technology. Smart Cast would turn a smartphone into a true mobile productivity PC by projecting an interactive touch display and a virtual keyboard, both of which would work with specific productivity apps, including some Microsoft Office apps. It’s unlikely that Smart Cast would be the preferred productivity tool of choice — the more you rely on a keyboard, the more finicky you tend to be about it, and few will prefer the lack of tactile feedback of a virtual display. But, it sounds like a pretty cool tool to use in a pinch, maybe as a last-minute way of polishing a PowerPoint presentation before using Smart Cast projection to actually present it. Lenovo offered proof of concept for Smart Cast with pianist Lang Lang, who played on a virtual piano keyboard using sheet music projected by Smart Cast.
The third and completely different concept? Smart shoes. These smart shoes would monitor a person’s mood — an endeavor that still seems specious — along with more traditional fitness stats like steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and heart rate. While it seems like it should make sense for things like steps taken and distance traveled to be monitored directly from shoes, it’ll be on Lenovo to prove that that’s actually the case, and I’m guessing that’s why these shoes are still in the concept stage. Still, it’s in keeping with the growing trend of smart clothes that we could see take off next year, so Lenovo isn’t exactly coming out of left field with this.
None of these are due to become consumer products in their current form, but we do know Lenovo loves putting projectors on things, so at the very least it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smart Cast or Magic View technology implemented in some Lenovo products in the near future.