If augmented reality (AR) glasses are The Next Big Thing in consumer tech, affordable pricing is going to be key.
Nreal, makers of the Nreal Light AR glasses, have announced a new pair called the Nreal Air that not only looks more stylish, but “will retail at a fraction of the price” the company says. The Nreal Light launched last year in Asia and Europe with varying prices in different countries. In Japan, they’re around $670 while the price is closer to $295 in Korea, where the Nreal Light glasses are subsidized by wireless carriers.
The AR glasses startup hasn’t announced firm pricing. A company spokesperson told Input the Nreal Air will be less expensive than the Light and more info will come when the AR glasses launch in December. A source familiar with the Nreal Air told Input the AR glasses are expected to cost about as much as a mid-range phone; lower pricing will be dependent on carrier subsidization.
(AR)ound the world — The Nreal Air AR glasses will launch in three Asian markets in December: China, South Korea, and Japan. Nreal says the glasses will launch in other markets in 2022.
Despite being a Chinese-based company, the Nreal Air will be the startup’s first product launch in China. Xu cited its low price as a key reason for entering the Chinese market now. “This product with a lower price point, this can be much easier to penetrate those other markets, like China … and elsewhere.” Nreal CEO Chi Xu told CNBC.
The Nreal Air news comes just a week after Nreal raised $100 million in funding for the research and development of new products, as well as expansion beyond Asia.
A major facelift — You can’t help but compare the design of the Nreal Air to the Nreal Light. The Neo-inspired look of the Nreal Light shades is definitely not it. The new 77-gram Nreal Air glasses, however, look like modern sunglasses that borrow design cues from Ray-Ban’s iconic Wayfarers. Style is very important when it comes to a gadget you wear on your face, but the tech needs to be, too, otherwise why bother?
The Nreal Air glasses have a revamped fit that should make it comfortable to wear the glasses for longer stretches. To make sure the glasses stay on, the temples, or legs, have been outfitted with an elastic material. The adjustable “3-step rake system” is a new feature that makes it possible to change the viewing angle by tilting the lens.
Apart from the redesign, which will make you look less dorky in public, the Nreal Air has an improved display. Nreal says it’s using a micro-OLED chip to power the Air’s display for brighter, richer colors. With a rating of 49 Pixels Per Degree (PPD), Nreal says the Air glasses can display up to a 201-inch virtual display. Even better, the Nreal Air boasts a 90Hz refresh rate for smoother viewing when gaming or watching high-framerate content. According to Nreal, the higher refresh rate shouldn’t impact a connected phone’s battery life, though I’m not quite convinced.
In addition to Android phones, the Nreal Air will work with iPhones and iPads — a first for Nreal products. One of the Nreal Light’s biggest shortcomings is that it only works with Android devices.
Battle for our faces — In terms of where AR tech is headed, the Nreal Air is a firm step in the right direction it seems. However, its adoption rate will come down to two things: a killer app and a competitive price. The latter is ostensibly being worked on so we’ll see have to see about the former.
Time will tell whether or not Nreal’s decision to rely on external processing power via a smartphone or tablet to keep costs low will be more sustainable than, say, Microsoft’s $3,500 HoloLens 2, which includes a CPU and GPU, but has remained a developer-only device.
Zooming out, it’s clear our faces are the next battleground for consumer tech. Facebook is working on a pair of AR glasses and Zuckerberg’s not been shy that he sees them as the next frontier. In the meantime, Facebook wants people wearing Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses and Snap wants people wearing Spectacles 3. Neither camera glasses offer any built-in AR functionality like the stuff inside of Nreal AR glasses, though; Snapchat announced a new pair earlier this year that do support real-time AR content, but it’s not being sold to consumers. With Apple rumored to launch AR glasses in the next couple of years (maybe even as early as 2022 or 2023), you can be sure that this is a space to keep a close watch on.