Nreal glasses go on sale to the public in "early 2020"
A pair of high-tech eyewear that superimposes computer graphics on real-world views has emerged as one of the most praised products from this year's CES tech show.
Nreal, the Chinese start-up involved, has confused the expectations of many industry watchers with the quality of the images produced by its Light glasses.
The company still faces problems.
One tester said the glasses looked a bit "awkward," and the company is being sued by rival Magic Leap.
But longtime CES participant Ben Wood, an influential technology consultant, declared them the "product of the show."
Wood said Nreal glasses at CES have come a long way since the prototype was unveiled at last year's event.
"For years, people have promised too much and have not delivered on augmented reality glasses," the CCS Insight analyst told the BBC.
"Nreal seems to have continued quietly with product delivery and is now ready to ship it by midyear.
"I'm not able to pretend that the glasses will be everyone's taste – this is still a first generation product. But they are much closer to a normal pair of sunglasses than some of the other smart glasses I've ever seen, and they definitely deliver the best augmented reality glasses experience at CES. "
Others also praised the device.
Impressed with Nreal's new augmented reality glasses. That's what Apple is looking for, but it connects to an Android phone. The new interface is super polished – and $ 499 lowers prices for Hololens, others. Critical to see if you get an ecosystem. pic.twitter.com/4kpfsmBOV5
– Mark Gurman (@markgurman) January 6, 2020
Eye Tracking Sensors
Nreal Light glasses require a tethered connection to an Android phone and come with their own touchpad controller.
The images produced by the device's two monitors – one for each eye – cover a 52 degree horizontal field of view (fov).
That means they only partially cover the 135 degrees fov normally available to humans – but they do so at a relatively sharp 1080p resolution.
Depth sensors allow eyeglasses to mix digital objects with the surrounding environment
In addition, the sensors track eye movements and 3D map the view in front of them so that characters and digital objects can be seen interacting with the environment.
Microphones and speakers are also built into the frames. And users control objects in sight through what looks like a curved laser pointer.
The demos on display at the show included a zombie video game, making a mock video call and watching YouTube videos.
Eyeglasses can also display standard Android apps, putting several in sight simultaneously, allowing users to glare from one to the other.
Many in the technology industry believe that augmented reality should be embraced en masse by the end of this decade.
Users can watch YouTube videos without closing their environment
"Instead of having devices that push us away from the people around us, the next platform will help us be more present with each other," Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Thursday.
"While some of the early devices may look awkward, I think these will be the most humane and social technology platforms anyone has ever built."
But other companies have struggled to break the market.
Seven years ago, Google Glass was launched as a consumer product, but the technology giant now targets its glasses in factories and other commercial uses.
Magic Leap put its long-awaited mixed reality headset on sale in August 2017, after raising over $ 2.3 billion in investment.
But a report last month indicated that it sold only one fraction of the number of units that had beenand recently shifted its focus to selling to industrial customers.
This leaves Microsoft's HoloLens as the main competitor of Nreal.
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Rory Cellan-Jones participated in HoloLens 2 in February 2019
Your second generation product has a benchmark of 70 degrees and works through a standalone computer. But it is significantly bulkier and several times more expensive than Light glasses.
Nreal says it plans to sell its glasses for $ 499. On the other hand, HoloLens 2 costs $ 3,500 and Magic Leap 1 $ 2,295.
There are many others #AIR offers of glasses at the show hall in # CES2020. Some look good and look similar to Nreal glasses (but are much less polished in use). And then there are those that are literally held together with duct tape, aluminum foil and prayers. pic.twitter.com/OA75yIrmxz
– Leo Gebbie (@LeoGebbie) January 9, 2020
How do they dress?
Zoe Kleinman from Las Vegas
I played with NLife glasses quickly. Weighing 88 g (0.19 lb), they sat heavily on the bridge of my nose, but that was nothing compared to the noise of an augmented reality headset like the Microsoft HoloLens.
I was given a zombie game to play and it took me a few minutes to correlate the control of the smartphone with what was happening before my eyes. It reminded me of the early days of the Nintendo Wii, when gestures didn't always give you the expected result.
The game was fun and the field of view was wide, but it turns out I'm not good at shooting AR zombies. I would be interested to see how glasses handle more realistic scenarios, because it was a bit stuttering.
I was told that there was a virtual home setup and also a fashion app built in partnership with the Joseph brand to try.
Beijing-based Nreal has partnered with chipmaker Qualcomm and an LG-owned mobile phone network to develop its product.
Start-up was founded only in 2017 and says it has managed to get this far so fast thanks to a strategy of not trying to include too much technology in the wearable itself.
"We realized that the best way to get people to embrace this technology was to essentially integrate these mixed reality glasses with the devices they already have in their hands, which are their smartphones," said spokesman Francis Bea.
"And the smartphone kit is essentially the processor.
"There are compromises you need to make, but make sure we can keep that form factor – like sunglasses – (means) that people won't feel embarrassed or uncomfortable."
Prior to Nreal's creation, his chief executive Chi Xu worked at Magic Leap for about a year.
Seven months ago, Magic Leap accused its former employee of stealing some of its technology and designing devices that were "strikingly similar" to their own.
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“ What are you waiting for? & # 39 ;, questioned a netizen.
In December, Nreal denied the charges and filed a motion to dismiss the case.
"We really didn't want to think about these issues," Bea told the BBC.
But in the long run, it may be other technology companies that pose a greater threat.
Samsung showed off a pair of augmented reality glasses at its CES press event, and Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about the potential of the technology.
"Given the interest of big players in the smart glasses industry, I think there is a high probability that Nreal will become a takeover target if they keep their promise," Wood said.
Follow all CES 2020 BBC coverage