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Home / Tips and Tricks / Hands-On with Nreal Light, Smartphone-Powered Augmented Reality Immersion «Next Reality

Hands-On with Nreal Light, Smartphone-Powered Augmented Reality Immersion «Next Reality



While Microsoft dominated the expanded reality news at this year's Mobile World Congress, a small AR start-up that we have previously developed in Barcelona, ​​Spain, has revealed the next phase of its mission.

This week China-based Nreal made the potential mass acceptance of its Nreal Light AR smartglass product much more likely by allowing users to use a smartphone as the system's computer instead of the original hip computer included in the first iteration of the product.

After reading through the enormous swirling of mobile companies at the event, I managed to track the company for a private demo meeting to test how the new system works.

The first look we had at Nreal Light was during CES in January, where the company revealed the new AR smart glasses that are tied to a small hip-mounted computer. I couldn't try the product at that time, but due to anecdotal reviews, there was reason to be excited about the device (priced at about $ 1

000) as a kind of gateway drug for a truly immersive AR.

What Nreal Light looks like is connected to a Snapdragon 855 smartphone. Picture of Adario Strange / Next Reality

This announcement was prepared with the news that the company also secured additional investment financing of $ 15 million. This time around, the news is that Nreal is now pairing the Nreal Light glass part with its smartphones powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 chip.

The list of devices using this chip primarily contains top-class Android smartphones, including Samsung Galaxy S10, Samsung Galaxy Fold, Xiaomi Mi 9, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, Sony Xperia 1, LG G8 ThinQ and LG V50 ThinQ , among others.

Build quality and durability

Glasses and hip computer look great in design and construction and appear to resist frequent mobile use – this is not a prototype level unit. But while the glasses look as usual in general, as you can see from the photo at the top of the page, when they wear, they sit a little out of the face in a way that looks a bit uncomfortable compared to regular shades.

Part of the less-than-normal fit depends on the two cameras and sensors embedded in the glasses, giving some mass to their shape.

Nreal offers a wide range of alternative nasal bibs to help ensure a good fit. Pictures of Adario Strange / Next Reality

To compensate for this small mass, the glasses come with a detachable nasal bridge component, which offers a wide range of nasal size / formal options that magnetically click into a gap between the lenses. With regard to weight, the glasses are 85 grams, so they are light enough to be worn for extended periods if you watch a movie through the device.

Despite this approach, I can't say that the fit is unnatural enough to avoid wearing them in public. And I wouldn't be surprised if spectators didn't notice you had "special glasses" at all. But this is still not really an "invisible" to the regular AR-smartglass look.

What AR looks like

Shortly after the debut of Nreal Light at CES, I heard a bit of describing the experience in the same breath as Magic Leap. , "pump your AR brakes." Sure, the Nreal Light version of AR is actually immersed (52 degree point of view) and looks good, but it's not close to the quality of the interactivity of Magic Leap One or HoloLens 2. [19659002] The best way to describe this device is as an intermediate step between PDA, smartphone-based AR and advanced AR devices as mentioned above.

Picture of Adario Strange / Next Reality

If I had to give the best direct comparison to the overall AR experience, I would compare it to the DreamGlass device, which also uses a smartphone as brains. But the main difference is that Nreal Light offers a more normal look, similar to sunglasses, which may be more attractive to some consumers.

] Picture of Adario Strange / Next Reality

Due to time constraints, I could not test how robust the AR interactions are in terms of corporate specified use of SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), panning and object recognition, but otherwise the colors were alive and the 3D models were impressive when I walked around them using the system.

Among the things I experienced were: 3D models of a team of dancing monsters, a 3D flying cyborg choice and a 2D movie screen (similar to what I experienced when I tested the first pair of Smartglasses from Nreal).

Interface

The primary mode of the interface is via a circular 3DoF controller that is pressure and touch sensitive and fits in the palm of your hand.

Controller puck mounted in body body computer module. Pictures of Adario Strange / Next reality

Weighing of 23 grams is not a difficult component of the system, but it is so small I can easily imagine that many users lose control puck when traveling around the city. And the chances of losing the controller are likely to increase if the owner uses the only smartphone version of the system, without the control unit's puck holder being on the hip computer module (see picture above).

Conclusion

This Nreal Light is not in the same way as Magic Leap One or HoloLens 1 or HoloLens 2. Overall, I think it really is an effort to be "good enough", as well as small enough and elegant to attract the users but several thousand dollars to spend on advanced AR, and have not yet been enchanted by the smartphone AR.

The company still doesn't reveal exactly when the device will be sold and just says "later this year." But now that I have used it, I believe that Nreal Light's success or failure will be tied to price. If it's somewhere close to $ 1000, I'm not convinced that the public will pay so much for "good enough".

Of course, if Apple introduced something like this, the price would be less of a factor, given the brand trust and the many users tied to its existing mobile ecosystem. But Nreal comes from "zero" in terms of brand awareness and trust, so the price here is important.

A neck strap for holding the computer module has a magnetic lock and will be sold separately. Pictures of Adario Strange / Next Reality

A recent and very relevant example of this is the case with North and its Focals smartglasses. The company started trying to sell the device to $ 1000 with almost no advertising or marketing and just a few bricks and mortar. After failing to generate a significant assumption, the team quickly cut the price by almost half, and now the company suffers massive layoffs – all in a few months.

On the other hand, Nreal has very large backers from the Chinese company capital space, so it probably has more track. But financial support will not be enough to solve the problem of pulling users into a brand new platform from a brand new brand that beats cutting out a name in the United States.

Will Nreal Light dazzle some who are new to AR? Almost safe.

But getting the beginners to actually pay for the unit will require strong content and software partnerships and a very friendly price. Hopefully, Xu, a former Magic Leap employee, is looking at all the lessons currently being developed in the AR market carefully as he prepares Nreal Light for his true debut when consumers decide whether this is a winner or not. [19659048] Don't miss: Hands-On with HoloLens 2, the new best enhanced experience you can get

Cover image by Adario Strange / Next Reality

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