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nReal's Magic Leap-like AR smart glasses cost $499, arriving by end of year

Powered by phones, and they fold up like sunglasses.

nReal's original mixed reality glasses, demoed at CES in January.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Lightweight AR glasses haven't been a real thing yet, despite the promises of glasses-sized, more limited smart glasses such as the Vuzix Blade, or bigger, more expensive setups like the Magic Leap. But nReal's pair of phone-connected, sunglasses-sized, folding mixed reality glasses coming this year could bridge the gap.

nReal Light, which we've had a chance to demo earlier this year, feels like a convincingly shrunken down version of what Magic Leap and HoloLens deliver. The glasses, which used to have their own hip-pack processor, will connect through USB-C with an approved range of Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 phones. The Black Shark 2 gaming phone is the first phone that will work with nReal's glasses.

$499 will get you the nReal Light "Consumer Kit," which consists of a folding pair of AR glasses that connect with USB-C, nothing more. A developer kit, which costs $1,199, comes with the nReal glasses, plus a single handheld 3DoF controller (which can point and control things, but doesn't accurate track motion in space like Magic Leap's controller can), and a plug-in processing pack. The nReal developer kit will arrive in September, while the consumer version will arrive by "end of year."

Now playing: Watch this: Nreal Light headset is a small Magic Leap One

nReal's glasses have dual displays that show 3D images layered into the real world, and do a surprisingly good job considering their size. But they lack a few key things that HoloLens and Magic Leap's hardware offer: namely, they don't have true depth sensing in the front cameras, which means that the ability to move around and use more advanced controllers isn't yet possible. But their 3D capabilities are a step up over other small-size, lower-power smart glasses.

nReal's glasses are another USB-C connected device in Qualcomm's large-scale strategy to make lots of VR and AR headsets work with next-gen phones. Expect a lot more like them in the next year.