When ASUS was finishing up their presentation at Computex 2018, they started talking about the future of computing. It's a talk we've seen many times before, leveraging AI and Machine Learning and other buzzwords into a future-looking conceptual hardware platform. The screens showed a laptop with two screens, something we've seen time and time again in these render-rich visions. And then ASUS actually showed the hardware. It's real, and they're planning to bring it to market in 2019 — that's within the next 18 months.
Where the ASUS ZenBook Pro with ScreenPad is a confusing amalgamation of dual-screened laptops, Precog is exactly the laptop of the future I've long dreamed of. In fact, it's exactly what I told Lenovo the next generation of their innovative Yoga Book should be. Except it's ASUS that was first to show this reality.
It's worth stressing that this is a concept right now. I didn't get to touch the dual touchscreens or fondle the hardware in any way. The press was kept at more than an arm's length from the displays put out, so for all I know I was just looking at a pair of laptop monitors running a demo loop (in fact, that's a good bet). But the hardware we saw was impressive nonetheless, as was the thought that ASUS has put into how the whole system will work.
Of course, a dual-screen laptop demands a virtual keyboard, and the Precog demo reel showed exactly that, and an adaptive one at that. ASUS plans to deploy proximity sensing tech and AI to predict where exactly you'll want a keyboard to appear as you approach, and as the Precog is separated from an external mouse or keyboard it will intelligently add virtual options on the lower display in their place. It's smart implementation, something that not long ago was only the stuff of dreams.
The hardware on display was very thin, with a design that could work with either panel being the "top" or "bottom" — it's just a hinged pair of touch displays with the computing components and battery stuck behind them. It'll no doubt be expensive to pull off, and require some serious hardware to make it all work smoothly and smartly.
AI will see a deeper implementation in the hardware, with the Precog doing things like analyzing your calendar to better optimize battery life so you can make it through the day. It'll also smartly integrate both Cortana and Alexa.
We're still a long way out from Precog becoming a reality. And I certainly hope that won't be the actual name of the product when it releases... considering the pop culture implications of the name. But I am looking forward to the production version and the inevitable hardware category and software support that will follow. It's been a long time since my Courier dreams were crushed, and the ASUS Project Precog has rekindled that dream.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.