Chinese augmented reality (AR) glasses maker Nreal on Thursday said it rebranded to Xreal — a name it hopes will encapsulate its expansion into Europe and latest products.
Peng Jin, co-founder of Xreal told CNBC in an interview that the “X” in the new branding reflects the company is “expanding beyond what we thought was possible” and highlights new AR applications. The company, whose products are already sold in the U.S., U.K., China, Japan and South Korea, is planning to launch into European markets in the third quarter of the year.
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Augmented reality refers to technology that allows digital images to be imposed over the real world and represents an area of current investment for the world’s largest tech companies, from Apple to Meta. It is a key technology in the so-called “metaverse.”
Xreal makes two models of a headset that looks like sunglasses — the Xreal Air and Xreal Light — which run the company’s own operating system, called Nebula. Like Apple with iOS on iPhones, developers can make apps for Nebula that people can then use via Nreal headsets.
When people put on their headsets and open an app, they will see a large version of that content in front of their eyes. But Nebula is only available for Android devices, limiting its appeal. On Thursday, Xreal announced a new piece of gear called Xreal Beam, which it describes as an “iPod-shaped device” that can connect, wired or wirelessly, to smartphones, gaming consoles and PCs.
This will allow someone with almost any device to use the headset. One of the key areas Xreal is targeting is gaming. For example, you could connect Xreal Beam to a gaming console, such as PlayStation, and then play a game on a massive virtual screen within your glasses rather than on a physical TV.
Since its commercial launch last year, Xreal said it has sold 150,000 products globally. Jin did not give specific numbers, but said Xreal is looking to “double or triple” its sales in the coming year.
He also revealed the company is looking to raise money. CNBC reported that Xreal fundraised $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 some high-profile backers that include Nio Capital, the investment arm of electric carmaker Nio, as well as venture company Sequoia Capital China.
Rising AR and VR competition
Augmented and virtual reality are drawing interest from some of the world’s biggest technology companies. Meta has pinned its future to such innovations, while Apple is reportedly working on its own virtual reality headset and gaming giant Sony last year released its second virtual reality headset called PlayStation VR2.
Jin said the competition will help expand the market.
“When you have companies like Sony or even Apple start investing in the space it brings more attention to this general direction, it will draw more talent,” Jin told CNBC.
But Xreal operates in an interesting space. Its headset can be used with consoles like the PlayStation, so that people can play a game on a huge virtual screen rather than a TV.
This is not a direct competitor to the PSVR 2, which immerses players as if they were in the actual game. But it does pose questions about whether companies may move to block Xreal’s device in the future, a risk not lost on Jin.
“I’m not saying these companies will not one day decide to build their own AR glasses and decide to block us. I m not saying that’s not going to happen. But there’s so much more to gain than just blocking us,” Jin said.