Acer has unveiled the world’s first laptop to feature a curved screen. The company says the innovation should make it more immersive to play video games on the machine.
Several TVs already feature curved displays, but the feature has proved to be divisive because it has both benefits and disadvantages over flat-panel technology.
The Taiwanese company also announced it had acquired a pet technology start-up, at a press conference in Berlin.
Several other consumer electronics brands – including Samsung, Lenovo, DJI, Sony and Huawei – are set to unveil new kit of their own at the Ifa technology show in the German capital this week.
The Predator notebook’s screen is much bigger than the norm – measuring 21in (53.3cm) – but it is its shape that made it possible for the company to claim a “world’s first”.
“The curvature of the screen matches the natural curve of the eyes and gives a wider field of view,” Acer Europe’s John Miedema told the Daily Released.
“This allows people to pick-up in-game details, like spotting enemies or looking in the rear view mirror in racing games, more easily to give a better, more immersive gaming experience.”
Curved screens are widely used in cinemas and first appeared in TVs about three years ago.
They are also said to produce a greater sense of depth, because the images they show are not on a single plane.
Samsung, in particular, has been a strong advocate of the technology. Its two highest-end TVs come only in curved designs.
But other manufacturers have experimented with and then abandoned the look.
“Curved screens are great if you are in exactly the right position and equidistant from the various points of the display, but as soon as you are not in the ideal place you get distortions of the image and glare,” said David Mercer, from the consultants Strategy Analytics.
“With TVs this is a problem, as you tend to have more than one person watching at a time.
“But I can imagine it makes more sense on a laptop for a single user.”
However, one games hardware expert had doubts.
“It’s a bit of a marketing gimmick because while 21in is massive in laptop terms, it’s not particularly big in general screen real estate,” said Dave James, from the PCGamesN news site.
“Desktop monitors are normally 34in or higher for a good curved screen, and that makes a difference as it wraps around your field of view.
“For a 21in laptop, your face would have to be extremely close to it to get the effect.
“The fact the Predator’s screen has an ultra-wide aspect ratio is probably more exciting for gamers.”
The model’s other unusual feature is the inclusion of eye-tracking technology developed by Sweden’s Tobii.
It was originally developed to help people with disabilities control PCs.
Acer follows another Taiwanese company, MSI, in building the sensors into a laptop.
They allow gamers to:
- aim at targets by looking at them, freeing up their hands for other controls
- change the direction they are looking at by moving their eyes
- make use of “dynamic lighting” – the overall scene dims if the player looks at a very bright object or does the reverse if they look into shadows, mimicking the way our eyes work
Tobii first revealed how its tech could be used to enhance PC video games nearly two years ago. But, at present, few titles support the feature.
“Acer kept referring to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate because it was just about the only game it could point to,” said Mr James.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Tom Clancy’s The Division are among other compatible titles.
“I think it’s niche in application,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, from the consultancy IHS.
“Eye-tracking technology is much more interesting when it comes to virtual reality.
“Acer is building the Star VR headset [which integrates Tobii’s tech], and this is probably a result of it thinking where else it could use it.”
At Ifa, Acer also revealed it had acquired the start-up Pawbo.
The company makes webcams that allow owners to watch and remotely play with cats and dogs by shining a laser and releasing treats.
Acer announced a new model that allowed up to eight people to interact with a pet at once, as well as accessories including a remote control “cat teaser” and a toy rodent that could be made to pop up out of a surface.
The company said pet owners had spent a total of $104bn (£79bn) on their animal companions last year.
It forecast the sector would grow by 24% by 2019.
Until now, Motorola Mobility had been the only major tech company to have targeted the sector, although there are dozens of smaller firms involved.