Nreal Light is the first AR eyewear product available in the United States. But is this new technology still ready for regular consumers? Keep reading to find out.
Light is available at Verizon stores and on the Verizon website. It weighs about three times a large pair of sunglasses, or one-third of a Magic Leap One headset. To achieve this form factor, Light is powered by a smartphone via a USB cable – there is no full-fledged battery or chip on board.
Price and compatibility
Light is at the cost of $ 599. While Nreal says you can mirror any Android or iOS device to a virtual screen floating in front of you, to use actual augmented reality capabilities, including location tracking and AR apps, you’ll need to. ” a compatible Verizon flagship device:
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S21 + 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S21 5G
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
- Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW
- Samsung Galaxy S20 5G UW
- Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
- OnePlus 8 5G UW
The cheapest of them is $ 799, so the total purchase price if you don’t already have one starts at $ 1398.
Visual quality and field of vision
For starters, I should probably really refer to Light as Sunglasses since the real world is obscured. Besides being darker, the view of the real world is clear and not distorted – this is the main advantage of transparent headsets.
However, the problem with transparent display systems is that the darker the pixel, the less opaque it will appear. True black is completely invisible, as it is produced by extinguishing the pixels. This means that some virtual objects may look more like translucent holograms than real objects, unless they are made entirely of bright colors.
But that opacity limitation aside, Light’s two 1920 × 1080 OLED micro-displays offer very impressive angular resolution. Visual quality is sharper than any VR (consumer) headset, and apps like the browser look a lot like using a real 1080p monitor. Even from a distance, the small text is easily readable. At no point in using Light did I feel like the resolution was a limitation.
The main flaw in Light’s image is that it seems to blur when you move your head. It’s incredibly distracting and suggests the displays are utter persistence. The vast majority of VR and AR headsets since 2014 have been using low-persistence screens, precisely to avoid this blurring effect.
The field of vision is much more difficult to convey. I could tell you it’s 53 degrees diagonally. I could explain how this is equivalent to sitting in front of a 19 inch monitor or 2 feet away from a 77 inch TV. But none of those numbers really capture what it is through the glasses.
The best way I can think of to really cross the field of view is to express it as a percentage of the goal – ie. how much of lens can actually show pixels and how much is just ordinary sunglasses. Before expressing this, there are a few caveats you should understand about ordinary glasses:
- The lens of the light is narrower (vertically) so there is a lot of empty space below you
- the top of Light’s frame is a lot thicker so you can’t see above you
- The lens of light lies further in front of your eyes
With that out of the way – in my eyes Light’s screen spans about 85% of the lens vertically and about 70% horizontally.
What this means in practice is you’ll want to place virtual screens and objects at least a few feet away so you can see them all at once. This greatly limits the type of content that Light works well with., but that’s a problem with all current transparent screens.
Comfort & Size
Nreal Light is more comfortable than any headset I have ever used. Unlike bulky AR glasses and compact VR headsets, it really feels like you’re carrying a heavy pair of glasses – 109 grams to be exact.
Light comes with four separate nose pads, and anyone I’ve demonstrated to have found at least one that they found very comfortable for their nose shape.
My only complaint about Light’s comfort is that it gets hot sometimes. It’s not a dealbreaker, but when it does, it limits how long it can be worn.
Nreal Light has two tracking cameras for upside down position tracking. It works, but there is a noticeable rebound and drift.
While Nreal’s SDK can detect horizontal planes like your floor and table, it does not generate a depth map or map your walls in any way. As such, it doesn’t support occlusion, which means virtual objects and screens always appear in front of real-world objects, even when they’re further away.
From a core tech perspective, tracking is the weakest aspect of Light, and the biggest difference between it and much more expensive AR hardware like HoloLens 2 or Magic Leap One.
Like HTC’s Vive Flow virtual reality headset, Light is controlled by your smartphone acting as a rotating laser pointer.
The control pattern on the touch screen varies by application. Nreal has a default, but applications can display their own user interface and virtual buttons. Since you can actually see the phone this is much more usable than Flow, but since the phone is not position tracked it is still clunky and awkward.
Nreal’s SDK supports manual tracking, but oddly enough, hardly any app supports it, and neither does the system software (Nebula).
Software and content
Nebula is the system software from Nreal, the default app you’ll see in AR mode. It allows you to open, move, resize and reposition web browser windows or phone apps in your real room, as well as being the interface for launching AR apps.
Nebula is really impressive. While I would love to be able to point and pinch with manual tracking, even using the phone to position the browser windows, you can easily watch videos or read articles anywhere, without having to hold a phone or tablet. in the hand.
Although the hardware field of view limits the usefulness of Nebula, this is a real glimpse into a future where physical televisions and monitors are antiques of the past and your workspace is where you want it to be. .
Other AR applications are much less useful. You get them on Google Play, Nreal doesn’t have their own store. There are maybe two dozen in total. Most are basically demos. AR content still resembles VR content in 2014, when the only material widely available was Oculus Development Kits.
Should you buy one?
If you’re a software developer or DIY enthusiast interested in building the latest tech platforms, and $ 599 is a reasonable price for you, purchasing Nreal Light could be a great way to get started in AR.
But what if you are not a developer? If you frequently spend time in hotels or temporary accommodation and miss your big TV at home, Light could indeed be a huge, ultra-portable floating screen.
For everyone though, unless you’re incredibly eager to preview the future and $ 600 is pocket change, AR just isn’t ready for you just yet.