Consumer AR glasses manufacturer Nreal has been gradually expanding availability in the US markets. The company has two consumer models – Light, which saw a very limited market launch almost a year ago, and Air. Fortunately, the wait for Nreal Air is now over.
Nreal Air AR Glasses Available for Everyone
Nreal Light launched in the US almost a year ago. Unfortunately, the release was pretty limited. The Android-only glasses were initially only available in brick-and-mortar Verizon stores.
In Nreal’s defense, the company didn’t adequately anticipate the demand for the glasses. The small number of headsets sold out on incredibly short order. The company responded by increasing availability and launching online ordering options.
That fixed the short-term availability problems. However, as of this writing, Nreal Light remains available only to Verizon customers with Android phones. Neither of these constraints is true for Nreal Air.
The glasses, announced weeks before the US launch of Nreal Light, have less robust input options, focusing instead on virtual screens. This means that the glasses have less demanding connectivity requirements, making them available for users that don’t (yet) have 5G through their service provider.
“AR glasses will likely first emerge into people’s lives as a display technology and then gradually grow into a holistic experience,” Nreal co-founder, Peng Jin, said in a release shared with ARPost. “That is why the thinking behind Nreal Air is very focused on the aesthetics, display quality, and its connectivity with other hardware devices.”
Further, while Nebula – Nreal’s MR operating system – remains Android-based, an adapter available with Nreal Air makes some affordances of the glasses compatible with iOS devices. At launch, this will be limited to screen mirroring, with additional functionalities expected to follow.
Finally, Nreal Air starts at $379 (available on Amazon) – $220 less than Light. However, the adapter for iOS devices runs an additional $59. Both the glasses and the adapter are available online from the provided links rather than through brick-and-mortar locations like the Light launch.
This article isn’t going to go into the tech specs. Those can be found in ARPost’s coverage of the product announcement last year. However, there are a few things that we know about Nreal Air that we didn’t learn from the initial product announcement.
For one thing, while the Nreal Air is still largely a virtual screen device, it will have 3DoF tracking (to Light’s 6DoF). We also now know that Air will offer a 46-degree FoV (to Light’s 52 degrees). These changes as well as other optimizations mean that Air is 25% lighter and significantly more energy-efficient than Air.
Software Announcements and Updates
We don’t only have new information about the hardware. Nreal also announced major updates to Nebula.
This included more information on “mirror mode” – the basic function of the glasses that allows the heads-up navigation of applications running on other devices on a virtual screen equivalent to between 130 and 200 inches.
This screen can be anchored within the display to move with the user, but it can also be anchored in physical space. Further, the screen can be generated from a mobile device, computer, or most major game consoles.
The MR operating system will now have a more reactive spatially organized user interface. The platform’s browser will also allow different views based on the kind of website being engaged with.
The most exciting update is the new “Teleport” feature. This tool allows users to scan physical locations with their smartphones to create a digital twin. This twin can then play host to text, images, and recordings left for other users.
“Teleport represents our focus on including as many people as we can in creating interesting content that can be enjoyed both on mobile phones and AR glasses,” said Jin. “There is something very special about placing people in a digital replica of a real-life environment where they can freely move around as they would in real life.”
It’s Finally Here
We were all excited about the Nreal Light. While it is a great headset, its availability isn’t what we’d hoped. At first, the Air felt like a weak concession. However, the more we learn about Nreal Air, the better it sounds – particularly since it isn’t tied to a service provider or even an operating system.