A year and a half after their CES debut, Nreal’s Light AR glasses are finally only days away from consumer availability — if you’re lucky enough to be in South Korea. Thanks to deals with Korean technology giants LG and Samsung, Light will hit stores on August 21 in bundles with two high-profile smartphones, while adding a new hardware feature and broader app compatibility beyond what was previously known.
The three-ounce wearable looks almost like a pair of folding sunglasses but fills 52 degrees of your field of view with a stereoscopic 1,920 x 1,080 display, the equivalent of a bright 100-inch screen blending into the real world. Integrated cameras track your hand gestures and eye movements, while USB-C-tethered smartphones (containing Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or newer processors) provide the computing power and Android app support. Though the glasses were designed for augmented reality, Nreal will include VR Cover, a new lens shade accessory that enables Light to also be used for immersive virtual reality applications.
Users of the LG Uplus cellular network will be able to purchase Light in subsidized bundles with either a Samsung Galaxy Note20 or LG Velvet phone on a 5G data plan. Normally 699,000 Korean won ($586 U.S.), the headset will cost only 349,000 won ($295) when purchased with the phone and plan, with preorders opening on August 11. Ten days later, it will be available to purchase in 120 stores across South Korea, including LG Uplus retail locations and Samsung-affiliated S Zone shops.
At launch, Light will be compatible with “several hundred major apps,” including TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, and Kakao Talk, as well as U+AR and U+VR apps from LG Uplus. Additional apps from Nreal and its partners will arrive “following the launch,” including collaborative holographic conferencing app Spatial, a game called Nreal Tower, a TV app, and a third-party app beta preview collection called Nreal Studio. Already impressive when it was revealed in beta form at CES earlier this year, Light’s 3D Nebula app launcher has “undergone a radical update” to its user interface to make it more intuitive for smartphone users.
Beyond the aforementioned VR Cover, the consumer Light kit will include multiple accessories, such as a corrective lens frame for near-sighted users and four magnetic nose pad attachments. While Light runs off a smartphone’s battery and thus will vary in longevity from device to device, Nreal says the headset will work continuously for two hours — not a huge stretch of time, but comparable to the 2.5-hour “heavy load” run time of Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nreal said it would release the consumer version of Light in “early 2020,” but the date slipped to mid-year. Sold without bundling or carrier subsidies, Light is supposed to be available for individual consumer purchases at $499 in the U.S., while an “all-in-one” enterprise model with all the necessary Snapdragon and sensor hardware inside a larger chassis is planned for later this year, at a price above $1,200. The company still expects to commence consumer sales outside South Korea in the months to come.