The ASUS Project Precog concept is exactly the insane laptop future we need

ASUS Project Precog
ASUS Project Precog (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

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.

Read: Why the 2-in-1 PC's next big thing will be dual displays

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.

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.

  • Thanks to modular WinCoreOS and OEM CShell SDK
  • I hope the WinCoreOS have APIs in place, if App developers want to leverage the displays in a device. Just imagine this laptop with an Andromeda like Hinge and watching Netflix leveraging both the displays and the hinge (similar to the PowerBI demo in Surface Hub). Very interesting :)
  • Please, I can wait no more😫
  • Ummm… This was already done years ago... The design back then was a bit thicker, but it was the same thing. I remember salivating at the idea, but the problem has *always* been that virtual keyboards suck. Unless they figure out a way to give enough tactile feedback for a virtual keyboard to rival a physical keyboard it will always suck at productivity. The real innovation with the surface was not in it's touch screen it was in it's keyboard.... The *keyboard* is what made it a device that could replace your laptop, without that it would not be my main work device, nor would I be typing on it right now. Remember the Surface touch keyboard? Not many do because it sucked.
  • True, but bad keyboards, software or otherwise, never stopped anyone from buying an iPad. It never even stopped people from calling it a productivity device. As for the Windows software keyboard, I use it quite often. It's not brilliant, but it's gotten better and I can at least say it's usable. And now it has gesture typing!
  • Andrew, I'd say that the entire reason for the success of the surface pro was precisely because iPads weren't as productive as people claimed. Also iPads are like 1/4 of the price of what this thing will cost so it's in a different category. Most people (especially those who work) who own an iPad also have another computer. It would be a huge let down to spend a bunch of money on dual screens and the graphics and processor to support them and not even be able to type on it properly. What would be cool is if they could overlay a super thin transparent chiclet (or membrane) keyboard on top of the bottom screen that could be flipped around to the back when using the touch screen..... lol, I forgot they added gesture typing. I wouldn't even begin to know how to do that on a tablet.
  • I really like the thumb mini keypad. Of course it's not for work but when using my Surface 3 in tablet mode, it's all I need. Word flow works well for me like that.
  • Cool stuff! This is the sort of innovation that can only happen on a ecosystem like Windows. Sure the Android system is "open" too but it's too open... with updates slow to roll out to device partners because those partners can do whatever the heck they want with the OS, and it ends up in a jumbled OS version of "dll hell". Apple's ecosystem is so closed that without a genius like Jobs at the helm they can't keep their creative edge. But Microsoft's ecosystem, when it's properly tuned at least, with MS leading quietly by example, and OEMs pushing the creative boundaries, it's the perfect middle ground for innovation.
  • They would not use ANDROID on a system like this anyways. It would be Chrome, and it would rock. Any apple os on a device like this would suck, (I use them), and hate MacOS. That being said, using windows, it's rock solid. Being ASUS however, I would NEVER buy it. They are a piss poor company.
  • You're right that Chromebooks are a different beast. And nothing against Chromebooks. I think they've actually come a long way. If I were to switch from Windows it would be to a Chromebook. But still don't believe Google's model for either Android or Chromebook fosters this kind of innovation. And I think it will actually hamstring Chromebooks for some time in two key areas: power and innovation. To be fair, I believe the MS model has been mistuned (outright broken) for some time. Mostly, but not entirely their fault, since all eyes in tech have been on phones and tablets pretty much so exclusively for the last decade. But when tuned properly the combo of Microsoft's version of an open ecosystem + OEM partners has the ability to foster innovation like no other. I'm enjoying seeing what I hope is the beginnings of a computing renaissance.
  • I get what you are saying but e.g. convertibles are doing better than tablets now, so not all eyes are on phones and tablets. ;) Since this is basically is a new sort of convertible (somewhat similar to the Yoga book convertible), perhaps this has a chance too.
  • Microsoft hits this right middle ground AFTER many years of terrible failures. One who never learn from one's failure has no innovation future!
  • The big problem is, no one is going to develop applications for it. The Microsoft Store is still bare, with no applications that I need to use on a daily basis.
  • Do your own apps
  • Westworld?!😍
  • Exactly what I thought when i saw it. :-)
  • I hate that we can not attach image here!!!!
  • Terrible idea😅 (attaching images)
  • That's a bad article. truely bending screens require currently ultraexpensive graphene. Samsung plans no such release unless it's a 5000 usd phone
  • How it stands up on it's own vertically ? Is there kickstand ?
  • I think it will work in tent mode and the hinge will most likely support it as well for use when typing.
  • I am talking about second photo in this article with external keyboard That idea looks amazing if laptop can stand up on it's own.
  • It's slightly hovering above the surface so I'm pretty sure it's standing on the same stand as in all the other photos.
  • Yeah it is external stand unfortunately.
  • It is so nice to see innovation. I can see a real application for this sort of tech.
  • This needs WoA for both displays and a decent battery life.
  • Intel is working on some tech that will reduce battery use by screens.
  • Imagine the same device but each panel is pocket form size and both the panels are detachable from each other ==> Dell Andromeda running Snap850.
  • Why detachably?
  • The screens will not detach from each other on the new andromeda devices. Unless he means, run separately.
  • Or master/slave.
  • make a call while browsing?
  • Dell Andromeda? Microsoft = Andromeda Dell = Januss HP = ? (my guess is it'll be part of the Envy range...codenamed "check me out, I fold")
  • "check me out, I fold" 😂😂😂😂😂 Having said that, they were the first to make it like that I believe.
  • Wasn't that Lenovo? Or perhaps Lenovo made it popular, not entirely sure anymore.
  • That's what I want to see... in the future I would love to have a couple of Surface Pro at home that can "connect" at the bottom and transform into this Asus concept... I think it would be awesome to see a Surface where you can either get a keyboard, or another tablet and use it as dual screen....
  • Interesting. I think two full screens works better in a smaller device where one screen alone could be a phone and both together a tablet (aka Andromeda). Because while this is innovative and would be cool for a lot of things, would you really want to type for hours on a touchscreen?
  • My problem exactly. Sure, physical keyboards are long gone on the phone, but the benefit of a bigger screen outweighs the tactility of the physical keyboard. In case of a laptop though, I don't think the benefit of a second screen outweighs the experience of writing long texts on a touchscreen. I know I wouldn't be able to produce thousands words daily on a touch keyboard, I already hated the new MacBook's keyboard when I tried it.
  • That's why they show usage with a real keyboard. People accept a lesser typing experience on mobile while you have the option of having a full typing experience with the keyboard in the demo.
  • It's awesome, and a sure fire sign that we Microsoft/Windows fans are finally starting to see an exciting future, with incredible hardware, that we can really embrace. One question...what OS is that thing running. It's not anything like Windows 10? If Andromeda...or any other foldable/dual-screen device...comes out with an OS that is too far removed from Windows 10, it's not going to help the new category at all. I get that Andromeda, Januss and any other foldable device that the OEM's are cooking up will require a different set of OS skills to function properly, but if it's too far removed from the Windows 10 OS that the world is only just beginning to get to grips with, it's not going to find a market.
  • There is a Windows key on both keyboards. So it's supposed to be something Windowsy I guess.
  • My surface 2, Dell 2 in 1 7000 series, and my now Asus Zenbook flip all have phantom touches on the screen and basically touch is not usable (my Zenbook has them the most and its my daily driver i use it to do work for my clients and depend on it working), so now i have it disabled from the device manager. I cant wait to see this device do the same. Touch is very fragile..... I would never by such device from Asus.
  • Exactly what happend with the 3 Asus devices I owned. All phantom touch issues, Still under warranty however, they would not honor their warranty....Therefore I refuse to buy, or suggest others buy their POS products. My dell devices are going on 3 years and still work like the day they were bought!
  • Steve, I hadn't thought it was common to Asus before reading these comments, but I bought my daughter an inexpensive Asus 2-in-1 and it too had phantom touches. Asus quickly replaced it at no charge. It actually still gets them -- seems to be an Asus problem or my 9-year-old daughter's dirty fingers (they go away if I clean the screen carefully). But I've never seen them on my HP Spectre x360 or my older Fujitsu T904 convertible.
  • What if you try to return it to the shop where you bought it?
  • Were the phantom touches right from the start or a while after you bought the Asus flip?
  • Nadella: "The World never needed the Third Ecosystem in Phones" - Key to digital future => innovate and define a new category or keep it ($) some where until a better idea comes
  • Don’t care what anybody says. We still need a Surface phone. These new devices are super exciting. But we still need something we can carry around with us everywhere in our pocket.
  • I assume you agree that the all 3 phone ecosystems refers to me-too design seen in iOS, Android and W10M. The up-coming Surface (new category) phone defies the me-too design by adopting Andromeda OS, a full desktop OS in a pocket form factor yet providing 3 in 1 with telephony The world deserves an inspiring new category phone-like device, not the run-out-of-idea Third me-too after iOS and Android.
  • "Hit Refresh" part 2 will be published end of 2019 - describe the struggle to stay truth to the core principle of digital future [take risk on defining new category or nothing!], even under tremendous hatred from the users of the abandoned W10M and many failed products
  • I think I like the name more than anything. "Precog" is awesome.
  • Acer Iconia 6120
    Toshiba Libretto W100-106 Two devices that have already done this. I don't expect most people to remember two machines but an article writer should 'at least' do a little research. (Unless you write for free or it's a blog).
  • This looks very cool, I think it would be great for people who use an external keyboard (and possible a mouse) when working, since you have two screens to work with (vertically; great for programming etc). Or perhaps for artists or such with the 2 touchscreens. A sort of kickstand or kickstand cover would have been a good idea however, now it requires a stand to work.
  • Maybe the keyboard is not the problem, it's the way we use it that needs to change. Swiping would be awesome on this. Like skype n phones, typing is already irrelevant for swype users. Only thing its good for is for typing out passwords and usernames.