The headline is unfair. Nreal has just dropped a huge announcement and there is so much to be excited about. This article will cover the nuts and the cherry, but the US expansion this spring might be the sundae.
Nreal’s Long Road to the US
Let’s play catch up with Nreal over the past two years quickly, just in case.
The China-based company announced the Nreal Light smart glasses in May of 2019. The surprisingly sleek and powerful consumer glasses with a $500 price tag was a welcome announcement, but a release date wasn’t included. They released a Unity SDK a few months later, but still no market release date.
They’ve had huge success in China, but China is a pretty unique market. In late 2019, they expanded to Korea – a market more similar to the US and Europe – where they again experienced huge success. In the spring of 2020, they cut the ribbon on a new factory that would ramp up production and cut costs, presumably setting the stage for further expansion.
All the while, they’ve been announcing new partnerships and more experiences and features, but a US and EU product release has always seemed just around the corner. Now we’re more or less caught up.
Market Expansion and Enterprise Edition Announced
“With the initial success we’ve seen with our carrier partners, we’re scaling this strategy and are excited to get Nreal Light into the hands of American consumers by Ashpril of this year,” company founder and CEO, Chi Xu, said in a release shared with ARPost.
The release didn’t mention the carriers that will move the product in the US. We do know that the company is partnered with Deutsche Telekom and LG Uplus in Germany and Korea respectively, so it’s not too far a stretch to wager that the US branches of those carriers (T-Mobile and LG Electronics) will form at least part of their US distribution channels.
Also detailed in the release was the Enterprise Edition of the Nreal Light, with more details (and possibly a price tag) to be announced at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai, taking place February 23 – February 25. The enterprise headset will also feature a “wrap-around halo design” instead of the classic glasses form factor.
The “made-to-order” package of custom hardware and software sounds great, but the Light’s headset’s two major draws in the US are the casual form factor and consumer audience – neither of which applies to the Enterprise Edition.
Basically, Nreal has been building anticipation for their consumer model for years and the announcement of an enterprise edition at the same time that their consumer model finally comes to market seems… less exciting. After all, most if not all of the MR headsets currently available in the US are already giant, expensive models geared toward enterprise.
Finch Technologies Partnership and New Experiences
True to form, the company also used this opportunity to announce another hardware partner, Finch Technologies, as well as upcoming additions to the technology catalogue.
Finch Technologies makes body-tracking wearable devices to serve as controllers for XR applications and experiences including the recently announced FinchRing (this is the promised cherry on top).
“Natural 360-degree movement in mixed reality has been one of the major challenges holding back the mainstream XR market and is something developers and consumers alike have been waiting for,” said Gary Yamamoto, CEO of Finch Technologies, in the company’s press release shared with ARPost.
The finger-worn hand tracker is designed to enable convenient and discreet 6-degree-of-freedom controls.
“Finch is excited to bring our FinchRing hands-free MR controller to Nreal to inspire developers around the globe to create all-new experiences that show the possibilities of AR,” said Yamamoto.
New applications and experiences coming to the platform in 2021 announced by Nreal include:
- Tagesschau 2025 – an application based on a German news program that will present, among other features, holographic weather forecasts;
- A virtual basketball game called DunkaAR;
- An MR mode for the in-browser MMORPG Dragon Awaken;
- An augmented reality football streaming application from Magenta Sport.
Most of these applications have limited initial appeal to US audiences, but a common strategy that we’ve seen covering Nreal involves the expansion and adaptation of applications and services beyond the market where they launched. We try not to deal in fortunes at ARPost, but this could be a harbinger of more US-oriented versions of these applications down the road.
What a Day!
We at ARPost always look forward to Nreal releases. They don’t come everyday, but they are always full of so much to unpack. Major takeaways for today: the consumer headset on US shelves “by April,” the enterprise edition coming this year, and FinchRing – which looks amazing.