China’s Oppo debuts ‘mixed reality’ headset as Apple, Microsoft explore similar devices

The Oppo MR Glass Developer Edition will be available for developers in China in the second half of the year.

Chinese electronics giant Oppo debuted a mixed reality headset on Wednesday, pushing into an area in which U.S. technology companies Microsoft and Apple have taking a keen interest.

The Oppo MR Glass Developer Edition is designed for developers to create apps and figure out the best uses for mixed reality technology. The headset is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Plus chipset.

Mixed reality refers to technologies that encompass both virtual reality and augmented reality (AR). People can wear a headset and see digital images or videos imposed over the real world in front of them.

Oppo is bullish on the future of mixed reality and sees it as the next computing platform after the smartphone.

“It has the potential to become a new computing platform,” Xu Yi, director of XR technology at Oppo told CNBC.

Oppo has been working on AR glasses for a few years, releasing its latest version — the Oppo Air Glass 2 — last year. The device looks like a standard pair of glasses.

The MR Glass Developer Edition, meanwhile, is a bulkier headset that comes with controllers allowing users to interact with the things they see in front of them.

Xu admits that for mixed reality “to be a real product or a successful product a lot of things still need to get improved,” including the technology and applications. .

“Everybody wants to do AR because it has huge potential but the technology is not there yet, it may be several years away,” Xu said.

That’s why Oppo is looking to entice developers to create the applications that will make mixed reality popular. The company will make its headset available for developers in China in the second half of the year. It said it has not plans to make the device commercially available yet.

Xu said that mixed reality will eventually lead to full AR, which is being experimented with now but remains in its infancy and has yet to grow into a mass-market product. Xu envisions an AR device as one that will be worn all day by the user.

“AR will be something similar to smartphones. Because the ideal AR is where you can wear [it] all day, with all functionalities, it will one day be comparable to size of smartphone market,” Xu said.

AR and mixed reality are an area that technology giants are globally focused on because of this potential. Microsoft has its HoloLens device, while a senior executive at Samsung told CNBC in February that the company is working out a roadmap for its own mixed reality devices. Chinese technology firm Xiaomi meanwhile took the wraps off its own AR headset this year.

Apple has also reportedly been developing its own headset for a long time. In an interview with GQ this year, company CEO Tim Cook explained why people might want a mixed reality headset in the future.

“The idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people’s communication, people’s connection,” Cook told GQ.