Achieving sub-5ms wireless transmission latency promises truly immersive (delay-free and without the vertigo) virtual reality experiences, as the many VR demos proved at the show. Beyond gaming, VR already has promising use cases for virtual hotel and building tours, city tours and 3D 360º video, but the cumbersome view-blocking headsets struggle to attract consumers’ dollars.
This where proponents of lightweight Augmented Reality solutions hope to succeed. Founded in January 2017, Chinese startup nreal had a demo running on the Qualcomm stand, demonstrating a pair of foldable high brightness 1080p resolution AR glasses with a 52° field of view, believed to be the industry’s lightest at 85 grams only.
Nreal’s Spokesperson Francis Bea didn’t want to say much about the optics nor the display engine, but seen from the outside, light seemed to shine through thick slanted optics as if guided from the top of the frame through a built-in graded-index light guide. In fact, the optics clearly looked as if they were the heaviest part of the glasses.
However, to make its AR glasses lightweight and foldable, the company made the strategic choice to leverage users’ smartphones (a given for content streaming) for power and image processing through a USB-C cable. The design can easily accommodate prescription lenses as the front lens snaps magnetically in place for a simple swap.
This means the AR glasses can become an affordable and lightweight smartphone accessory rather than an expensive standalone product with limited battery time, compute power or memory. With front-facing cameras integrated behind the glasses to feed SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) algorithms together with a 6DoF tracking inertial measurement unit, the glasses are capable of plane detection and object recognition.
With a slick touch and pressure sensitive controller that nreal provides with its glasses, users could decide to stick video content to a wall so it runs there, with the correct perspective regardless of where they stand in the room (a video-enhanced empty wall if you like).
With the nreal light glasses eeNews Europe was able to put on, 3D animated characters were not only floating in front of our eyes, they were truly integrated as volumetric content blending with reality, with their own coordinates within the real surroundings. One could walk to the avatars or in full circle around them, always rendered with the appropriate perspective as if they were true holographic projections.
Bea expects such glasses to be used for casual gaming and entertainment (without being locked to a screen), but also for productivity and video conferencing. One could easily imagine the emergence of slim retrofit multi-camera arrays (like a smart door frame) to create dedicated holographic conferencing spots in the home, allowing AR glass wearers to share their own real-time 3D holographic impression with their AR interlocutor as they talk.
When asked if nreal would work on a 5G capable version of the glasses, Bea was cautious, explaining that the company’s strategy to connect the glass through USB meant it could start selling its product without depending on the mass adoption of 5G by consumers.
“5G will support the next-gen content opportunity, and platforms like this will open the door to the next multibillion dollar business, creating content that people cannot not have” Bea said, referring to AR and VR content providers and application developers such as NextVR, ARvizio and Digital Domain.
Nreal has partnered with Qualcomm to make its nreal light glasses cross-platform compatible with smartphones embedded with the Qualcomm SnapdragonTM 855 5G Mobile Platform and Snapdragon XR Optimized. The company will also benefit from Qualcomm ecosystem platform providers, SenseTime and NetEase AR to bring mixed reality content and more AR capabilities to users of its nreal light glasses.
The nreal light are expected to ship in Q3 of 2019 and the startup has put together a developer’s pack including an Android-based development platform built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, with a software development kit available on Unity and Unreal.
nreal light – https://nreal.ai