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Nreal’s AR glasses, called Nreal Light, opened plenty of eyes at CES 2020 to the practical real-world applications of mixed reality. It’s no longer theoretical or hypothetical—these AR glasses prove that mixed reality can truly augment day-to-day life in ways beyond mere gimmickry. I walked away impressed and excited.
A bit of background: I have a bit of experience with virtual reality, most notably the Oculus Quest standalone VR headset with 6DOF movement. The Oculus Quest is revolutionary in its own way, but with several drawbacks that make it unsuitable for mixed reality purposes: it’s bulky, heavy, uncomfortable for long-term wear, with limited battery life, and while it does have cameras that can show your real-world surroundings, they aren’t crisp enough for mixed reality usage.
The AR glasses by Nreal tether to your mobile device and are powered via USB-C, which means they can stay running as long as your device has the juice to keep going. They’re lightweight and comfortable to wear, making them great for long-term use. And while the mixed reality display doesn’t feel the same as virtual reality, it’s perfect for what it’s supposed to be: a digital overlay of information and graphics on your real-world surroundings.
Nreal’s CES 2020 exhibition showcased three separate demos that showed how practical this mixed reality can be in action: a set of AR games (including a wave-based zombie survival, Fruit Ninja-esque slasher, and Street Fighter-esque fighting game), a virtual shopping experience for apparel with an impressive preview and checkout process, and an augmented smart home environment that lets you interact with real-world devices (like a colored lamp) via Nreal’s AR glasses.
The interface is simple to use: your mobile device works as a pointer for what you see in the glasses, with the mobile device screen acting as a trigger for selection and cancellation. In the future, Nreal plans to incorporate hand gestures for interaction, relieving the need to use the mobile device screen at all. Development on this feature is already well underway.
While the demos were rough around the edges with occasional bugs and crashes, and even though the glasses felt a bit bulky when worn, the overall exhibition was a triumph for Nreal in proving the viability of their approach to mixed reality. Nreal also has plans for a wireless version of the glasses, so that it won’t need to be tethered to a mobile device for operation.
The consumer version of the Nreal Light will be available in early 2020 at a price of $499. For developers, the Nreal Light Developer Kit is already available for pre-order for $1,199.