Nreal Light mixed-reality glasses will release next year for just $499

Many of us have had the chance to experience virtual reality now, whether it’s the larger VR systems that require a separate console, or the simpler headsets that only require a smartphone. But they’re not the only reality-altering headsets in town. Mixed-reality headsets offer a blend of virtual reality with augmented reality, layering virtual images over real life. The Nreal Light is Nreal’s attempt to bring that tech to market, packed into a small package that’s easy to wear and use.

Nreal has finally broken its silence and given us a launch date and price. The Nreal Light will be available next year, with prices for the consumer model starting from $499. Here’s everything you need to know about the Nreal Light.

Looking for a more personal look at the device? Here are first impressions of the Nreal Light from CES 2019.

What are they?

The Nreal Light isn’t a pair of smartglasses like the Vuzix Blade or North Focals, and you’re not expected to wear them all the time. Instead, the Nreal Light will be a gadget you wear for specific experiences, much like the Magic Leap One or the Microsoft HoloLens 2. Unlike those previous two examples, however, Nreal’s emphasis is on creating a compact, lighter headset.

That said, they’re still on the chunkier side for a pair of glasses, and you’ll definitely look a little silly while you’re wearing them. Thankfully, this is a product you don’t need to go outdoors to enjoy — though it’s possible to use it with certain smartphones to enjoy content outdoors.

The glasses section of the Nreal Light is connected to a puck that houses the device’s components and battery, and a removable circular remote. The remote feels like a smooth pebble, and is used to interact with your augmented reality interface. Combined, the whole device is lightweight and small, making it portable enough to use on the go.

Two cameras and sensors on the front of the glasses section are used to project images onto surfaces in the real world, and the device can detect a user’s movement to keep those images locked in place, allowing for movement toward and around the images. Speakers in the arms of the glasses also allow you to hear the action as it unfolds. It’s only a 1,080 pixel resolution screen, but the quality of the display was still impressive during our time with the device.

What can you use them with?

But all the innovation in the world won’t save you if there’s nothing to do with your cool gadget. Thankfully, Nreal has ensured early adopters have something to look forward to. While light on specifics, it’s expected the Nreal Light will ship with the ability to watch movies and TV shows, and will likely come with some mixed-reality games.

The Nreal Light Consumer Kit will be able to be connected to compatible, ‘XR optimized’ Snapdragon 855 smartphones to power even more content. If that device is 5G-enabled, then users will even be able to take the device outdoors with support from world-leading 5G carriers, including KDDI, KT, Softbank Telecom, Swisscom, and LG Uplus.

Black Shark 2 review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Nreal has also announced a close partnership with Black Shark, and specifically the Black Shark 2 gaming phone. The Snapdragon 855-powered gaming phone will be able to tether to the Nreal Light through its USB-C port, and though no exclusive apps have been revealed yet, it’s likely they’re on the way.

“Paired with Nreal light, the Black Shark 2 will be able to deliver the highest performance mobile gaming experience. Nreal light will completely immerse our users in a fully interactive gaming environment that places you right in the heat of the moment,” said David Li, Global VP at Black Shark. “We are excited to work with Nreal to usher in a new era of the mobile gaming experience.”

Nreal isn’t stopping there, of course. Anyone looking to make content for the device will be able to pick up the Nreal Light Developer Kit. This kit comes with all the hardware you’d expect from the consumer kit, but also grants access to the Nreal Light SDK, allowing developers to create consumer-friendly apps for the Nreal Light. The SDK will become available in August 2019, with beta versions expected earlier.

Pricing and availability

Has this subtle mixed-reality headset caught your attention? Then there’s good news — it’s not too expensive. Prices for the Nreal Light Consumer Kit will start from $499, but it won’t be fully available until 2020. The Nreal Light Developer Kit is more expensive at $1,199 and ships in September 2019 — but it also comes with access to the Nreal Light SDK.

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