Having already solved for functionality and form factor, Nreal appears poised to pull ahead of its consumer smartglasses competition as the third piece of the puzzle now falls into place.
On Thursday, at the Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2019, the smartglasses maker revealed that it will make the Nreal Light Consumer Kit, which includes the 1080p, 52-degree field of view smartglasses and a 3DoF controller, available for $499 later this year.
"We're excited to finally make Nreal Light available to consumers, which at just $499 has dramatically lowered the barrier to adoption and introduces a new category for mixed reality devices that are finally within the reach of an average consumer," said Chi Xu, CEO and founder of Nreal, in a statement.
To achieve its relatively low price, the Nreal Light Consumer Kit eschews the tethered computer and asks consumers to bring their own device to the experience. Flagship Android devices powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. The Samsung Galaxy S10, Samsung Galaxy Fold, Xiaomi Mi 9, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, Sony Xperia 1, LG G8 ThinQ, and LG V50 ThinQ, are capable of tethering to smartglasses, though, at least at launch, only the Oppo Reno and Black Shark 2 will support.
"Nreal Light provides a lightweight XR viewer at a great price which allows consumers to take advantage of 5G including high bandwidth and low latency to deliver immersive experiences virtually anywhere," said Hugo Swart, head of XR at Qualcomm Technologies, in a statement. "We worked closely with Nreal to ensure Snapdragon smartphone compatibility and ecosystem integration to transform the way people connect and consume entertainment, and to further advance XR to make it the next generation of mobile computing."
As part of the announcement, Nreal also revealed that the Black Shark 2 gaming phone will join the select group of phones that can run the Nreal Light.
"Paired with Nreal Light, the Black Shark 2 will be able to deliver the highest performance mobile gaming experience," said David Li, global vice president at Black Shark. "We are excited to work with Nreal to usher in a new era of the mobile gaming experience. Nreal Light will completely immerse our users in a fully interactive gaming environment that places you right in the heat of the moment."
Ahead of the consumer edition, Nreal will release an Nreal Developer Kit, which adds a wearable computer to the package for a total price of $1,199. Shipping in September, interested developers can sign up for the opportunity to acquire a Developer Kit at Nreal's website.
In addition to the two versions of Light smartglasses, Nreal revealed that it will ship a software developer kit (SDK) in August, with a beta version arriving in the months leading up to the official release of the SDK. With support for Unity and Android development environments, the SDK will enable developers to adapt their apps to the smartglasses and leverage the system's plane detection, real-time rendering, and controller input. Among the first developers to take advantage of the SDK is NextVR. The company recently ported its International Champions Cup VR app to the smartglasses.
"NextVR is fully committed to the 5G XR wearables ecosystem. We are excited to showcase how users will be able to see and interact with our content in 6 degrees of freedom on 5G XR wearables through our first multi-view demo on the Nreal Light SDK," said David Cole, NextVR's CEO.
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"Nreal Light will allow users to enjoy immersive content and also interact with the real world according to context. When users focus their attention exclusively on the NextVR content, it will fill their visual field and fully immerse them. This is a real force of change for the industry and both Nreal and we are excited to be at the forefront of this transformation."
We got our first glimpse of Nreal's take on smartglasses a year ago at the Augmented World Expo, where it stood out as one of the eight under-the-radar AR wearables on display at the conference.
In our hands-on with the device at Mobile World Congress, Nreal Light paled in comparison the spatial computing capabilities of the Magic Leap One and both generations of the HoloLens.
However, when stacked up against lower-end AR devices like North's Focals and the Vuzix Blade, the Nreal Light surpasses both in terms of overall functionality, and does it a cheaper price.
If developers decide to port their apps to the device, Nreal may have a winner on their hands, at least until Apple gets into the smartglasses game.