Augmented reality company Nreal launches a cheaper, iOS-compatible, more compact version of its smart glasses. The new Nreal Air glasses will be shipped from December 2021 throughout Japan, China and South Korea. The price is not fixed, but Nreal says they will cost “a fraction of the price” of its former Nreal Light glasses, which went on sale for around $ 600 last year.
Based on Nreal’s description, the new Nreal Air glasses have some similarities with the Nreal Light glasses from 2020. Both are designed to look like relatively normal sunglasses and are placed as ideal for projecting a virtual big screen in front of your eyes. They both use micro OLED screens for their augmented reality optics and are powered by a phone via a tether cable. And they are both aimed at consumers rather than businesses, researchers or the military.
But Nreal Air glasses have a different set of features than their predecessors. Like Microsoft HoloLens or Magic Leap hardware, the original Nreal Light glasses can map physical space around you with a set of outward-facing cameras. Nreal Air glasses, on the other hand, have no cameras facing outwards. They can display video and phone apps, but they can not see what is around you, which means they do not have the spatial awareness and hand tracking capabilities that Nreal Light has. You control them with a smartphone app, an option also available on Light glasses.
The upside is that Nreal Air glasses are ironically much lighter than Light glasses with 77 grams instead of 106 grams. They do not have the slightly bug-eyed look that Light-glasses have-in product reproductions similar to the more Facebook and Ray-Ban smart glasses minus the front-facing cameras. (The Ray-Ban Stories glasses, which have cameras but no AR display, weigh about 50 grams.) The new glasses let users tilt the lenses at three angles, possibly making it easier for more people to get a clearer picture. Nreal Light glasses launched with support for specific 5G Android phones, but the new glasses also work while paired with iPhones and iPads as well as “most” Android devices.
Compared to light, the Nreal Air glasses also have a higher screen refresh rate of 90Hz and an increased pixel density of 49 PPD. Nreal says the field of view of the glasses is 46 degrees, compared to Nreal Light’s 52 degrees -it equates to the view of the air with a 130-inch screen from a distance of 3 meters or a 201-inch screen of 6 meters. If users have friends with Nreal glasses, there is a viewing party option that makes this screen a shared virtual theater where they can all see the same media.
Nreal intends to expand the rollout of the Air glasses by 2022, and a spokesman says the US is a “big market” for the company, although it has not announced plans to ship there. As with the light, it is going to sell the glasses in partnership with major phone operators; it has not named specific partners, but it has previously worked with Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, Korea’s LG Uplus and Japan’s KDDI.
A spokesman for Nreal says the company developed Air after realizing that most users primarily either used the glasses to watch streaming video (and to a lesser extent surf the Internet) or to develop apps for the platform. In Korea, about 78 percent of users saw streaming content with the glasses. “Consumers today are looking for lighter but longer-lasting AR glasses solely for streaming media and work from home,” company founder Chi Xu said in a statement. According to Nreal, the lack of cameras should also assure spectators that the glasses do not threaten their privacy.
Nreal is one of a handful of consumer-smart glasses, and these results may suggest what people really want from AR headsets. But Nreal has also not made a coordinated game for experiences that mix the real and virtual world – a use case that other companies like Facebook have placed more emphasis on. Instead, it focuses on something that it already knows people love: binge -watch video.