Lenovo Drives Design Innovation (Form Factor) in PCs and “Extended Reality”

The big picture: While many players in the gadget industry like to talk about the technical advances hidden in their devices, the truth is that nothing has the same impact as a real change in the physical design or design (form factor) of the device. The debut of foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold or Motorola’s updated Razr, for example, continues to spark surprise and delight among customers and potential buyers that many companies wish they had.

New high-end processors, additional connectivity ports, improved cameras, and other internal improvements are also obviously important, but at a time when so many products are starting to look alike, interesting redesigns of popular devices are likely to take off. attention. It’s no surprise, then, that the launch of a Lenovo-branded laptop and a Motorola-branded smartphone with a stretchable screen at last week’s Lenovo Tech World 2022 event received a lot of attention.

Both devices are based on flexible OLED display technology that uses a rollable design, allowing the screen to be expanded to a larger size with the push of a button.

Both devices are clearly labeled as concept designs with no firm release date, but they both offer interesting insights into new ways to think differently about some of our most common gadgets. In their own way, each design addresses the near-universal desire for a larger screen size without the equally universal worry of not having to carry a bulky device, making them instantly appealing.

Unfortunately, given the state of manufacture of rollable display technology and the physical demands that consumer devices will face, it will likely be several years before we see commercial implementation of this technology on these types of devices. . (LG introduced its rollable OLED TV, but it took years for it to finally hit the market and currently costs around $40,000.)

Still, it’s great to see Lenovo pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and this is yet another example of the company’s long history of innovation in physical design. Lenovo’s original Yoga laptop series, for example, was the first example of the 360-degree folding PC hinge design that has since become commonplace. The company is also using a second-generation foldable PC design with the latest iteration of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, as well as the second version of the Motorola Razr foldable smartphone. Either way, it’s an interesting example of the company’s focus on form factors.

Recall that Lenovo purchased the IBM PC business in 2005 and the innovation-driven culture that led to the development of the ThinkPad laptop PC – which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and is arguably an archetype of laptop design. laptops – obviously continued when Lenovo took over. control. Of course, not all innovative designs become successful in the market and Lenovo, like all major PC vendors, has some interesting concepts that are not very popular. However, there’s no doubt that when it comes to exciting new possibilities or exciting design (form factor) innovations for PCs, Lenovo is probably the first company to try it. In many cases, this indicates that they were also the first company to bring it to the general public.

This same spirit of experimentation and new thinking is also starting to spread to other product categories, as Lenovo has recently focused heavily on XR (eXtended Reality) headsets and other metaverse related developments. Last year the company launched its ThinkReality A3 AR (augmented reality) glasses and last month it was one of the first companies to launch its enterprise-focused VR (virtual reality) headset, ThinkReality VRX, which provides color video transmission capabilities. This allows the device to switch from full VR mode to an AR-like Mixed Reality (MR) experience where digitally generated content can be overlaid onto the real-world view offered by the two high-resolution cameras on the front of the helmet.

While both headsets bear similarities to existing devices, they also include unique hardware to make them stand out. In the case of the A3, Lenovo opted to go with a tethered design which requires a wired connection to certain GPU-equipped Lenovo PC models or certain Motorola smartphones. While this suggests the device can’t function on its own, it does reduce the design to a much thinner, more bezel-like design than devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.

Lenovo’s VRX shares some similarities with the recently released Meta Quest Pro (although the Meta Quest Pro debuted after the Lenovo VRX). Both devices are based on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon XR Gen2+ chipset and feature the latest pancake optics for a wider field of view. Lenovo’s new headset can work alone or be connected to a PC for a higher quality experience. In fact, Lenovo has partnered with Nvidia for a GPU-powered cloud-based experience through Nvidia CloudXR.

The Lenovo device is also the first VR-enabled headset capable of working with Qualcomm Snapdragon Spaces, a software development environment originally created to create content for AR headsets. By equipping the VRX with the necessary hardware (and software) to support Snapdragon Spaces, Lenovo is once again reflecting its desire to bring new types of functionality into existing product categories.

Like all device makers, Lenovo continues to deliver important advances with its technology development partners in its devices. In addition, it is working on new software tools, services and development environments that are critical to many of them, including the multi-vendor Engage XR effort for its headsets. However, the company’s focus on design (form factor) innovation presents a unique opportunity as the world seeks more unique and different designs.

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