Chinese augmented reality glasses maker Nreal becomes Xreal
Nreal, a Chinese augmented reality glasses company, rebranded as Xreal. Co-founder Peng Jin told CNBC this reflects the company’s expanded product line and international expansion.
Chinese augmented reality (AR) glasses maker Nreal announced on Thursday that it has changed its name to Xreal – a name it hopes will encapsulate its European expansion and latest products.
Peng Jin, co-founder of Xreal, told CNBC in an interview that the “X” in the new branding reflects that the company is “expanding beyond what we thought was possible” and highlights new AR apps. The company, whose products are already sold in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Japan and South Korea, plans to launch in European markets in the third quarter of the year.
Augmented reality refers to technology that allows digital images to be imposed on the real world and is a current area of investment for the world’s biggest tech companies, from Apple to Meta. This is a key technology in what is called the “metaverse”.
Xreal makes two models of a sunglasses-like headset – the Xreal Air and the Xreal Light – that run the company’s own operating system, called Nebula. Like Apple with iOS on iPhone, developers can create apps for Nebula that people can then use through Nreal headsets.
When people put on their headsets and open an app, they’ll see a large version of that content in front of their eyes. But Nebula is only available for Android devices, which limits its appeal. On Thursday, Xreal announced new gear called Xreal Beam, which it describes as an “iPod-shaped device” that can connect, wired or wirelessly, to smartphones, game consoles and PCs.
This will allow anyone with almost any device to use the headset. One of the key areas targeted by Xreal is gaming. For example, you can connect Xreal Beam to a game console, such as PlayStation, and then play a game on a massive virtual screen in your glasses rather than on a physical TV. .
Since its commercial launch last year, Xreal said it has sold 150,000 products worldwide. Jin didn’t give specific numbers, but said Xreal was looking to “double or triple” sales in the coming year.
He also revealed that the company was looking to raise funds. CNBC reported that Xreal raised $100 million in 2021 — which at the time valued the company at $700 million — followed by $60 million from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last year. Xreal has prominent backers including Nio Capital, the investment arm of electric car maker Nio, as well as venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China.
Growing competition in AR and VR
Augmented and virtual reality is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Meta has pinned its future on such innovations, while Apple is said to be working on its own virtual reality headset and gaming giant Sony released its second virtual reality headset called PlayStation VR2 last year.
Jin said competition will help expand the market.
“When companies like Sony or even Apple start investing in the space, it brings more attention to that general direction, it will attract more talent,” Jin told CNBC.
But Xreal operates in an interesting space. Its headset can be used with consoles like the PlayStation, so people can play a game on a huge virtual screen rather than a TV.
It’s not a direct competitor to PSVR 2, which immerses players as if they were in the actual game. But that raises questions about whether companies could block Xreal’s device in the future, a risk Jin is not unaware of.
“I’m not saying these companies won’t one day decide to build their own AR glasses and block us. I’m not saying it won’t happen. But there’s so much more to be gained than just blocking us,” Jin said. .