Nreal, the Chinese creator of highly anticipated augmented reality smartglasses, announced a December 1st launch of its Nreal Light in Japan with KDDI. Following a successful introduction in Korea with LG this summer, pre-orders for Nreal Light can now be made on their Japanese telco partner KDDI’s online store. The Nreal is compatible with 5G smartphones including the Sony Xperia 5 II and Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.
Nreal’s booth at CES 2020 was mobbed. Developers are clamoring for the developer kit, which is hard to come by and over $2000. The Nreal Light is what the Magic Leap could have been, had they made different decisions, which is why founder Chi Xu, a former Magic Leap engineer, was sued in US court by his former employer. A judge threw out the case last year.
The new glasses must be tethered to an android phone, which acts as its controller. The Nreal Light went on sale in Korea on August 21 for just under $600, or $295 when bundled with a Galaxy Note 20 from the LG U+ network in Korea. By clipping a cover onto the Nreal Light, the smartglasses are also capable of VR.
At the end of March, we reported Nreal had opened a new optics factory in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, China. Eventually, the company hopes this factory will produce as many as one million units a year. Because of this, the company says it will make up for any lost time and have ample supply for worldwide release next year. COVID reportedly caused some slowdowns of the Nreal developer kit, but the company says those have reportedly been resolved.
A trusted source, blogger and developer Tony Vitllio, says demand is so great among developers, no one can get a developer kit. He insisted sources tell him developer versions, even at a high price, are impossible to come by. In a recent blog post, he speculated Nreal may be a victim of its own success. “It is having a too high demand for its device, and it can’t keep pace with its production. Managing a hardware product is very complicated,” Vitillo wrote on his influential blog.
A company spokesperson told us the delay was a strategic one. “Nreal is for 5G Android smartphones. That’s why a close relationship with carriers selling the new 5G phones and data plan are critical. For instance, the Korea version of the glasses were bundled by LG making it significantly cheaper than the original price. It sold for $295 if purchased as a bundle with the option between one of two 5G smartphones.” Our guess is that at the moment Nreal is focused Asian developers, as its smartglasses are for sale there right now and urgently need bespoke content.
The Nreal Light model shipping to Korea and Japan is the Nreal Light Consumer Kit which is significantly cheaper than the Developer Kit. More specifically, their smartglasses would have to operate with smartphones that run the 5G Qualcomm 855 or 865 processor. Users control the smartglasses with the phone and can swipe on or tilt the smartphone to control content within your FOV.
“Nreal Light’s launch in Korea’s LGUPlus retail stores was Nreal’s first real step into the spotlight. You could say after years of sheer hard work, we were ready to prove that the Nreal Light no longer just a concept, but a reality. Throughout the next two quarters you’ll be seeing more of us in more places,” said the company representative.
KDDI customers can purchase Nreal Light starting Dec 1 2020 in any of KDDI’s retail stores throughout Tokyo and pair this with a Sony Xperia 5 II or Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra.