One of the biggest challenges to mixed reality headsets is the size. Compared to virtual reality, MR headsets like the Magic Leap One and Microsoft HoloLens are small. But on the muted Jackson Pollock-style carpet of the Mirage Hotel at CES 2019, the company Nreal announced a pair of MR glasses the size of a pair of chunky Oakleys.
The small size and bold primary colors are part of the Nreal Light's consumer audience. Nreal takes a similar approach as Magic Leap by separating the glasses and the processor. There is an over-the-shoulder cable that connects the glasses and processor pack which is appropriately called "toast" due to its size. It has the same Snapdragon 845 processor used in flagship Android phones such as the Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.
Sticking with food analogies, the controller is called "oreo" and is about the size of… well, an Oreo. And interestingly the oreo can dock with the toast, meaning you can hold the processor pack in your hand with the controller securely mounted on top.
Then there are the glasses, which are indeed small. I tried on a prototype and it felt like a pair of large sunglasses, albeit a pretty warm pair. A representative for Nreal says the company is working to reduce how warm the glasses get during use.
The image is bright. I didn't have a Magic Leap One to directly compare Nreal's to, but I'd say the Nreal Light is a tad brighter when it came to graphics. The Nreal's field of view, 52 degrees, is wider than that on the Magic Leap or HoloLens. The lenses can be swapped for prescription ones and there are adjustable pads that can be built-up for a better fit.
Nreal Light glasses will launch in late summer or early fall this year. While a price was not announced, I was told that the glasses would be a fraction of the cost of the Magic Leap One or HoloLens.
But the real challenge for Nreal will be media. We are still in the chicken versus egg days of MR content and like Microsoft and Magic Leap that ultimately will be the key to success or failure for Nreal.
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