Sony’s Xperia Touch Looks Like Fun, But It’s Not Ready to Change the Way We Video Chat

sony's xperia touch

The rapid advance of technology is making me greedy. Nearly every time I see some new piece of tech, I think, ‘That’s great, but it’d be even better if only it could also do X.’

Sony’s new Xperia Touch touchscreen projector is the latest to get me wanting more.

It’s a visually spectacular device that can turn any surface into an Android-powered touchscreen tablet through the use of infrared sensors and a camera. It can also be flipped on its side and used as a traditional projector, generating an 80-inch image on the wall.

But it can’t do both at the same time. And, yes, I want it to do both at the same time. If it could, you’d be able to combine the fun and versatility of a tablet with the impressive presentation of a projector. It’d take social video calling to a whole other level, and it might justify the four-figure price tag.

Touchscreen Projection Video Calling

The Xperia Touch uses Sony’s decade-old SXRD projection tech and some infrared wizardry to project a 10-point touch interactive Android screen onto any flat surface. It’s connected with the Google Play store, and will accommodate any app you can download.

Here’s the gadget at work:

Google Play access means there’s a host of video calling apps that should function on the Xperia–Skype is one app that has been confirmed to work on the technology.

That’s exciting because it means video chatting on a screen almost twice the size of the average American TV set. At that size you’d finally have a decent look at everybody in a group video chat–especially if you’re used to making such calls on a smartphone where three or four chat windows reduce everyone’s image to the size of a passport photo.

The problem, though, is once you flip the Xperia over to project the 80-inch image onto the wall, you lose access to the infrared sensors. That means you’re left with a really big standard video chat, rather than a really big, really interactive video call.

So, let’s forget that shortcoming and instead imagine Sony found a way to put a second set of scanners on the other edge of the Xperia.

Xperia Touch Unleashed

The Xperia is mobile, and comes with a one-hour battery that doesn’t sound impressive, but is time enough for a video call, as long as you don’t turn the thing on until you need it.

So we’ve got a mobile video calling platform that can project up to 80 inches, and includes a touch-sensitive virtual keyboard, second screen, or shared workspace. Obviously any room with a bare wall is now an impressive video conference suite. With our hands-free to draw and write and type all over that second sensor screen, all kinds of blueprints, documents, and even multimedia files can be manipulated and shared in real-time. And they can be displayed on a screen large enough to do them justice.

Stepping outside the office, the Xperia could be used to stage on-location video calls projected onto the walls of a developing neighborhood renewal project or onto the stage of a community event. On all occasions the conversation could be augmented with hands-on drawing and visual demonstrations.

And then there’s the social potential, such as playing virtual instruments in duet or even quintet, playing Android app games, collaborating on multimedia homework projects, and making virtual objects, from origami frogs to Lego skyscrapers.

In reality though, the Xperia isn’t likely to get a second set of sensors anytime soon. And even if it did, it would no doubt become even more expensive, pushing it beyond the reach of casual users.

A Fancy Tablet at an Exorbitant Price

It probably is already out of the reach of many users, as the Xperia will go on market for $1,600. In our opinion, that’s far too much for a frilly piece of tech that ultimately doesn’t have a clear use case. At least not one that can’t be replicated elsewhere.

This is an Android tablet at heart, and all the impressive app games can be replicated on a tablet for a fraction of that price. They are the same apps, after all. The huge screen video calling is a nice feature, but the average household likely won’t be interested in spending that much on video conferencing equipment, and the average enterprise is going to want a much clearer image.

And so I’m left with that greedy feeling again. This looks like it should be a game changer, but at the moment it’s just an expensive indulgence.

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