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The goal of the Beijing-based company is to keep moving fast on the leading edge of the technology and create multiple generations of products so that it can be ready with the right one when the AR market takes off. The company is pitching the device as a “portable movie theater.”
The newest glasses weigh just 2.7 ounces (77 grams), and they’re smaller and more compact than the Nreal Light glasses (100 grams) that the company launched in 2019, said Nreal CEO Chi Xu in an interview with GamesBeat.
Xu said that advancements in AR technology have accelerated exponentially since Nreal Light was first unveiled. And that makes smaller and more compact augmented reality technology available. The company has also designed the new glasses for specific applications, such as streaming TV shows and playing mobile games.
“We got the Nreal light into hands in 2019, and it was like a concise version of the HoloLens,” Xu said. “We thought it would be great for productivity, but it turned out most of the usage was entertainment and media consumption.”
The aim is to create an immersive experience in a form factor indistinguishable from daily worn sunglasses. Xu didn’t disclose the exact tech details, but he said the Nreal Air boasts the best display on the market available for any AR device, as it is capable of projecting up to a (simulated) 201-inch virtual display, when viewed at a distance of six meters, which is well suited for watching multimedia content.
The glasses will still be tethered to your smartphone, just like the Nreal Light. But the glasses are about a third lighter and are more comfortable to wear than many previous AR glasses, Xu said.
The glasses have an adjustable three-step rake system, which enables users to adjust the viewing angle by tilting the lens, and elastic temples that tightly hug the head and won’t slip. Nreal Air’s design has an outward-facing camera to focus on the theater experience. At 46 degrees, the glasses have a wider field of view than the previous glasses.
Rivals include the Microsoft HoloLens, the Magic Leap One, and whatever mysterious object Apple is working on but never revealing.
The device has a micro-OLED display. Nreal Air’s display has a high density of colors, with as many as 49 pixels per degree (PPD). This ensures that fine details are clearly visible and enhances the realism of the content, Xu said. And it has a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, and the features don’t drain the phone’s battery.
“We put a lot of resources into image quality and color,” Xu said.
It is also compatible with Apple iOS devices, a rarity in that it will support both iPhones and iPads, and will also be compatible with most Android devices.
Xu found that 78% of users in South Korea used Nreal Light to watch streaming content. Nreal will first launch Nreal Air in December 2021 in three Asian markets: Japan, China, and South Korea in partnership with leading carriers. Nreal Air’s roll out to other markets will continue through to 2022. Pricing will be determined by local carrier partners but will retail at a fraction of the price of Nreal Light.
The company is planning to take the Nreal Light product into enterprises, while the Nreal Air will focus on consumers. The Nreal Light Developer Kit is available for order here.
As one of the survivors, Nreal has been able to raise more than $185 million to date. The first glasses debuted in South Korea, Japan, and Europe. Xu said the company has more than 250 employees. Xu said he believes the headquarters in China is an advantage.
“We are closer to the supply chain and we can move faster,” he said. “We go early and we go first. We can get the early market share.”
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