These AR Smart Glasses Let You Watch Your iPhone’s Spatial Videos Without a Vision Pro
Why spend $3,500 on Apple Vision Pro to look at your 3D memories when you can spend $700 instead?
Now that Apple Vision Pro has an official U.S. release date (February 2), the question is whether or not you want to spend $3,500 on the headset computer. If you answered “No way, that’s too much money,” you might want to consider Xreal’s Air 2 Ultra.
Announced at CES 2024, the Air 2 Ultra touts its own “spatial computing” (expect to hear this term a lot) platform, but in a compact form factor that’s more smart glasses than VR headset. Priced at $699, the Air 2 Ultra costs one-fifth of the Apple Vision Pro, when it comes out in March.
How much Vision Pro do you get for a fraction of the cost? About one-fifth of the Vision Pro sounds about right. Each of your eyes gets a “full HD” resolution display with a 52-degree field of view, 120Hz refresh rate, and 500 nits of peak brightness. Compare that to the dual 4K-resolution screens you get with Vision Pro. Xreal says users will get a virtual display that’s the equivalent of a 154-inch screen viewed from about 13 feet away, along with “cinematic-grade audio and directional audio technology.” Apple says Vision Pro has a virtual screen that “feels 100 feet wide with support for HDR content.”
The titanium smart glasses also come with “dual 3D environment sensors with computer vision capabilities” that provide the typical six degrees of freedom (6DoF) tracking found in many VR and mixed reality headsets. Similar to the Apple Vision Pro, the Air 2 Ultra is controlled by hand, eyes, and voice. Again, how well the controls work compared to Apple Vision Pro is unclear. As we all know, not all input is equal, even when it seems so on paper.
“The 1080p image is crisp and sharp, even with 3D content,” Laptop Mag managing editor Sean Riley shared on X. “It creates a display wall you can reach out and interact with.”
On the bright side, the smart glasses can even play back 3D spatial videos shot with an iPhone 15 Pro. So if you’re looking at the Apple Vision Pro and thinking to yourself that you don’t care for visionOS, the Air 2 Ultra might be the affordable way to relive your memories in 3D.
I’ve tried Xreal’s Air smart glasses before and they’re pretty slick. That version wasn’t particularly immersive in the way a VR headset surrounds your vision, but having a large virtual screen for watching Netflix was pretty convenient and comfy. At 80 grams, the Air 2 Ultra at least won’t weigh your face down.
Look, the Air 2 Ultra doesn’t compete with the Vision Pro spec for spec, but maybe it doesn’t have to. All it — and any other smart glasses — need to do is offer a similar virtual screen experience, which might be enough for most consumers at the end of the day.
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