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TCL's RayNeo X2 AR Glasses Live-Translate Conversations for Me

TCL's known for TVs. Now the company's working on its own AR and VR hardware, too.

A wave of VR and AR headsets and glasses are expected in 2023, arriving from companies including Apple, Sony, HTC and Meta. The number of future hardware players is growing, too -- add TCL to that mix. 

You've probably heard of TCL as a TV manufacturer. TCL does a lot more than that, including phones. The Chinese electronics company has already dabbled in several generations of display-enabled glasses. Now TCL is demonstrating two new prototype VR and AR headsets that show where things could go next: these devices were announced alongside a continually-evolving version of TCL's already-available NXTWear display glasses I tried a few years ago.

A man wearing an N95 mask and a pair of large black AR glasses

Trying on TCL's RayNeo X2 AR glasses from a hotel suite in Las Vegas.

Scott Stein/CNET

The VR headset isn't an actual coming-to-market product yet, but the AR glasses are: and both show clear paths where TCL, a maker of displays, could gain footholds. TCL is already a partner with Qualcomm on AR and VR devices, and both the VR and AR glasses I tried use the several-years-old Snapdragon XR2 that's in the Meta Quest 2

TCL announced its move into AR glasses last January, but the new AR hardware, plus a surprise VR headset, were actually available to demo in Las Vegas. I gave all three devices a test drive in a hotel suite ahead of this year's CES.

A black pair of smart glasses on an illuminated white table, with clear lenses

From a certain angle, these glasses look almost normal. Note the waveguides in the lenses, though, which help project the displays.

Scott Stein/CNET

The RayNeo X2 AR glasses, using built-in waveguides into the lenses that project Micro LED displays that hover in front of both eyes, look borderline normal from certain angles. The still-bulky glasses don't use Qualcomm's recently announced AR glasses-optimized AR2 Gen 1 chipset yet, but you could imagine they will. Representatives from TCL in Las Vegas confirmed that's eventually the plan, which will likely make these glasses even smaller. But these RayNeo X2 glasses don't need a phone at all to work: they're entirely self-contained. They'll be available to buy later this year.

The glasses have prescription inserts that are meant to be used instead of wearing your own glasses underneath. TCL has a wide range of inserts for this pair of glasses, including ones that could come close to my -8.2 myopic vision. What's also impressive about these glasses is they have large, clear lenses, unlike other smaller previous-gen AR glasses that rely on display tech that covered the top half of a glasses' viewing area.

I tried a few simple demos with the glasses, which have their own touchpad control on one arm to navigate and tap through apps, but also support hand tracking (which I didn't get to try). The most impressive is a real-time translation tool that allowed me to understand someone in the room speaking in Chinese to me. However, the live transcription also presents what everyone in earshot is saying, too, including myself. It's reminiscent of what Google is already working on for its own assistive AR glasses project.

Another demo, showing navigation, shows pop-up directions much like what glasses including Google Glass have done. The glasses can also play music through their arms as levels low enough to not be heard by others, reminiscent of Meta's Ray-Ban Stories glasses. 

Looking at the lenses of a VR headset by TCL

TCL's VR headset looks unremarkable cosmetically, but does have its own prescription-adjusting dials inside: it's meant to be worn without glasses.

Scott Stein/CNET

The TCL NXTWear V VR headset, TCL's concept entry towards making a Quest competitor much like the Pico 4, feels like it still had unpolished tracking and controller movement, but the lightweight design is reminiscent of where headsets are going, and it has color passthrough cameras that could eventually work with mixed reality. It's definitely more compact than the Quest 2, and has what seems like a vivid display… except, I can't quite tell with my eye prescription. Much like the compact HTC Vive Flow VR goggles, this headset is also meant be worn without glasses, and has its own vision-adjusting diopter instead of prescription inserts, but the settings max out at a -7. My nearsightedness is worse. It's a problem future VR and AR headsets still need to solve.

A pair of mirrored glasses made by TCL

TCL's NXTWear S glasses are really just hardware that projects a fixed but very vivid display mirrored from a phone, PC, or game system.

Scott Stein/CNET

TCL also has another more advanced set of NXTWear S display glasses, a portable wearable display that's an improvement on a pair I tried a few years ago. The new model uses a better Micro-OLED display showing off a surprisingly vivid hovering screen of whatever they're plugged into, with a display resolution that TCL compares to 49 pixels per degree (translation: It's a limited viewing area, but looks like a full version of your phone display at a retina-resolution-type level of crispness). I connected with a TCL phone over USB-C, trying a new feature that turns the phone into a motion-controlled pointer that casts a line to the floating screen to select buttons and open apps.

Nobody has been able to make true everyday mass-adoption AR glasses work at a large scale yet, although many companies are trying and several already have products available. Qualcomm has already promised that a wave of new AR glasses are coming between 2023 and 2025, and TCL looks to have already shown a hint of what it's aiming for. If the company's VR/AR trajectory looks anything like its success path with TVs, it could be a major player for headset displays over time.

Correction, Jan. 8: This story originally misstated when AR glasses are coming, as well as the glasses display type for the NXTWear.