Back when we first got a look at Sony’s Xperia Projector at last year’s Mobile World Congress, it seemed like the brightest idea in a sea of concepts that will likely never be seen again. More than a simple projector, the device turned any table or wall into a touch-enabled screen, letting you swipe and manipulate apps and screens as if you were using a 23-inch phone.
But what seemed futuristic then has now become reality. At this year’s MWC, Sony has turned the Xperia Projector into a real product with an official name and a shipping date. Called Xperia Touch, the Android 7.0-powered tabletop device is due to hit shelves this summer, and it could be the first must-have gadget from Sony in years.
Along with its new name, the 5-inch device sports a new look as well. Something of a cross between a toaster and a top-loading CD burner, the Xperia Touch is wrapped in a textured silver shell that features a control strip at the top. It includes an array of sensors built into its small frame—including GPS, ambient light, barometer, temperature, humidity, and human detection—as well as a 13MP camera and two-way stereo speaker that all work together to turn any flat surface into a fully interactive touch screen. If you’re sitting at a table, the viewing area will be 23 inches, but when projecting onto a wall it can expand the image up to 80 inches.
The interface is built using Android 7.0 and Sony’s own SXRD projection display technology to enable touch “through a combination of infrared light and real-time detection via its built-in camera, at a rate of 60 frames per second.” The abilities are virtually unlimited, expanding to a variety of apps, games, and, of course, movies.
The home screen won’t look like a usual Nougat one, however, as Sony had adapted it for the experience to provide an array of widgets, including weather forecasts, a virtual memo board, calendar integration, and a Skype portal for video chatting. It will also be able to run games via PlayStation 4 Remote Play, as well as any app downloaded from the Google Play Store.
While U.S. pricing hasn’t been released, Sony has said the Xperia Touch will cost 1499 euros when it launches in Japan and Europe this summer. A U.S. release is planned as well.
The big picture: The tiny computers in our pockets can only do so much, and companies are already starting to look beyond the capabilities of 5- or 6-inch screens. The Moto Z’s Insta-Share mod is certainly intriguing, but all it really does is make the screen easier to view. Sony’s Xperia Touch offers more than just an expanded image, it lets people interact with it just as they would with physical objects. Of course, it remains to be seen how fluid and responsive the interface actually is, but the technology is intriguing, bringing the experience of a smartphone into a collaborative, social environment. Mind you, $1500 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s still a new piece of technology, and as it develops, it could one day transform the way we learn, work, and communicate.