MR glasses manufacturer Nreal announced the opening of a new optics factory in Wuxi City, China, last Friday. Before the end of the year, the factory will be rolling out one million units.
Press release in hand, let’s talk Nreal, let’s talk China, and let’s talk the future of MR glasses.
Opening the Doors
“Today is a key milestone for us because opening a new optics factory in a city like Wuxi, China enables us to flexibly scale our production capacity and personally oversee the production of this key component,” Nreal co-founder and Chief Optical Scientist, Bing Xiao, said in a release shared with ARPost. “This means that we’re not only able to meet the compounding demand for the highest quality displays when we ship Nreal Light, but we’re also even considering expanding the demand to prospective partners interested in this technology.”
The press release stated that the factory opening allows Nreal to cut production costs on its MR glasses by creating more of the components in-house. The factory will also house the company’s R&D department and some 600 employees.
The significance of the factory being in Wuxi comes from the city’s tech-forward atmosphere. Nreal’s MR glasses are – like many of our XR hopes and dreams – counting on 5G internet. Wuxi is central to China’s development of this technology.
MR Glasses, Trade Wars, 5G, and DT
To mention a potential elephant in the room, Nreal’s being in China does pose a potential complication to US consumers.
America’s trade war with China is tech-heavy and potentially makes large shipments of MR glasses from China more costly.
However, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 which lead to a return to hawkish trade policies, the American-Chinese trade was warming. The trade war failed to have a crippling impact on the limited shipments of Nreal developer kits. Those shipped in July, when the trade war was at its peak.
Perhaps a more severely limiting agent is 5G internet. The US is woefully behind China in the development of 5G infrastructure. Further, no America-based carriers have so far partnered with Nreal.
However, Nreal announced a partnership with Deutsche Telekom earlier this month, when they also announced hand-tracking capabilities. DT, Europe’s largest carrier, also has a foot in the US as T-Mobile.
Catching Up On Nreal
To be clear, Nreal hasn’t launched a full-scale product – yet.
Around this time last year, the company announced that its Nreal Light MR glasses would hit the shelves at an affordable $499. “Light” is spelled “Light,” not “Lite.” The name isn’t a comment on the glasses’ computing power, it’s a comment on how much they weigh.
Coming in at only a few ounces, the glasses claim to be the lightest in the world. That’s technically true because they are tethered to an external computing pack or compatible smartphone. However, with a 52-degree field-of-view, they claim the category.