New notebooks are announced all the time, but the basic formula hasn't changed that much over the years. The screen flips up revealing a keyboard and touchpad and most of the internal hardware fits into the base. Asus has a concept notebook in the works that challenges this formula. The Project Precog notebook ditches the keyboard and touchpad entirely and replaces them with a second screen.
It's not hard to imagine use cases for a dual-screen notebook with a 360° hinge. When the notebook is in the “traditional” laptop orientation, the lower screen's real estate can be split between a virtual keyboard and windows for lower-priority tasks. There'd be intriguing possibilities for two people to use the same device while it's laid flat on a table or put into tent mode. Asus envisions a “book” mode that would involve the notebook fully opened up and placed on a stand, too.
The success of Project Precog will likely depend on how intuitively and comfortably users can actually interact with the device. Unsurprisingly, Asus is coming up with flexible and hassle-free input options. The company is implementing an “AI Touch” system that changes the notebook's virtual interface depending on which input device is active. The system can bring up a keyboard directly underneath the user's fingertips, or switch to stylus mode when it detects a stylus. Furthermore, the company installed the requisite microphone array for full Cortana and Alexa integration into the Precog.
More intriguingly, Asus noted that Project Precog supports Intel's Movidius visual processor unit, a SoC dedicated to translating vision information. The company didn't specify how the notebook would make use of this chip, but among other uses, Movidius might give the device the spatial awareness necessary to detect how the device is being used and adjust the interface accordingly.
There are many challenges that Asus would have to surmount for Project Precog to be successful. I, for one, have yet to find a virtual keyboard that's comfortable for enough for a significant typing session. However, the concept notebook is an exciting look at what might be coming next in notebook designs.