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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Why 3D laptops can be a success

Acer launched new 3D technology for future laptops earlier this week, allowing on-screen images to seemingly pop out of the display for a dazzling effect. 

When I first heard of Acer’s plans to develop a 3D laptop, I was very sceptical. After all, 3D gadgets arguably went bust in 2017, with Sony and LG pulling support for their TVs and Nintendo abandoning its 3D strategy when transitioning from the 3DS to the Switch.

But my opinion changed after Acer invited me to its HQ to check out the tech. Acer presented me with a ConceptD laptop prototype. It looked like any other ConecptD laptop that you can currently buy, aside from some very noticeable cameras in the top bezel. 

An Acer ConceptD laptop displaying a 3D video
A photo of a 3D video running on an Acer laptop

Rather than featuring a single webcam, a stereo camera set is visible. This is required for the eye-tracking technology, so it can detect the movement of my head and eyes to make sure the 3D image is displayed correctly. The second physical feature needed is a stereoscopic 3D display – this looks identical to a standard screen, but features an optical lens which is optically bonded on top. It’s very similar to how the 3DS works. 

But that’s enough about how it works. How does it actually look? Acer first showed me a 3D video of some cartoon astronauts, which looked as if they were floating out of the screen. It looked so realistic that I couldn’t help but swipe the air in front of me to try and catch them. 

Acer also pointed out that its new SpatialLabs software can turn side-by-side videos (of which there are plenty on YouTube) into 3D video, which means there’s an abundance of footage you can view with the technology.

Side by side video example for 3D
An example of side-by-side videos that can be converted into 3D footage

However, all of this technology will undoubtedly be very expensive when implemented onto a laptop, and these videos probably won’t be able to justify the added cost. But before I had time to write off these 3D laptops, Acer showed me another presentation. 

This time, Acer activated the SpatialLabs Model Viewer which saw a small character from a video game appear on the screen. When the 3D effect was activated, the model burst out of the screen with glorious detail. I could now rotate it around and inspect it in detail. While a 2D image on a traditional monitor wouldn’t give a good sense of depth, I could now see how chunky the character’s arms were and get a better understanding of the size of their sword. 

Since video game characters are designed for a 3D world, where you can look at a character from any angle you wish, such a tool could be very handy. It’s not just game designers that can benefit either. Whether you’re designing a new pair of headphones, a fancy sports car or even furniture for your bedroom, SpatialLabs provides a better view of objects that occupy a 3D space. 

Acer's concept art for the SpatialLabs 3D technology
3D model designers will find 3D laptops very useful

After dragging, enlarging and rotating various objects in 3D, I could finally see a place for 3D. And while 3D laptops will undoubtedly be expensive when they launch, the cost isn’t too problematic for big video game and movie studios with giant budgets. 

But where does that leave you and me, as general consumers? With 3D TVs failing to hit the mark, I’m still unconvinced that 3D consumer laptops will ever be a thing. I personally quite like watching movies in 3D, but not to the extent that I’d be prepared to spend hundreds of pounds more on my next laptop. That doesn’t mean the technology won’t benefit us though.

If 3D model developers can save substantial time when creating 3D models, whether that’s for video games or special effects in movies, then it could potentially result in improved experiences for us in the future. 

So don’t expect 3D technology to ever become available in the likes of the Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Air – it’s just not practical or cost-effective. But I’m now a firm believer that 3D laptops can be successful in high-end models aimed at professionals, and I can’t wait to see what talented creators can produce with the technology. 


Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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