Xreal Air 2 in action. Xreal augmented reality glasses are compatible with gaming consoles and allow users to play games on a large virtual screen
Chinese augmented reality (AR) firm Xreal launched its next-generation glasses on Tuesday as interest continues to grow in the technology favored by many tech giants. Apple and Meta See it as the next big consumer product after the smartphone.
The Xreal Air 2 and Xreal Air 2 Pro are lightweight glasses rather than bulky headphones, as the company is betting on this type of device appealing to a wider range of users looking for an easy-to-wear product.
“The Air 2 was designed mainly to improve the comfort when people use it,” Peng Jin, co-founder of Xreal, told CNBC in an interview on Tuesday.
AR refers to technology where digital experiences are superimposed on the real world. Xreal glasses allow users to have a big screen experience of apps such as streaming services or games. Xreal's AR glasses can connect to smartphones, game consoles and other devices, allowing users to open an app and see what they see on a virtual screen up to 330 inches.
Xreal launches the glasses in the US, UK and some European markets. The Xreal Air 2 starts at $399, while the Pro versions start at $449. The tools will be available to order in November.
The company said it managed to use a smaller display inside the device, resulting in the AR glasses being 10% lighter than the previous generation. Xreal also said it improved the headphone speakers to prevent as much sound leakage.
The first generation of Xreal Air was released last year.
Tech giants are betting on augmented reality
The market for augmented and virtual reality headsets is in its infancy and only 8.5 million headsets are expected to be shipped this year as the market faces a lull in consumer spending due to a tough global economic environment, according to International Data Corporation. .
The market will rebound in 2024, growing 46.8% per year, IDC said, likely thanks to the expected introduction of new hardware.
These tech giants see headsets as the potential next big platform for computing. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has staked much of the company's future on the launch of these technologies.
Looking at competition in the market, Xreal suggested that Apple is marketing Vision Pro to existing users of Apple products, and is trying to bring Apple services from an iPhone or Mac to mixed reality – another term that refers to a combination of virtual and augmented reality .
Jin said Meta is also trying to bring its social network to virtual reality, which has been “extremely difficult.” He pointed to technological challenges and Meta's struggles with commercializing its VR applications.
The Xreal Air 2 glasses start at $399 and will be available in the US, UK and select European markets.
Jin said the Xreal's strength lies in its lack of legacy, suggesting that Apple won't make a headset that necessarily connects to competing systems, and that the Meta headsets will likely connect to the company's social networks.
“For us, we have that flexibility. We have the freedom to not work with an existing legacy… so we're cross-platform, we don't mind starting from a very basic experience and letting people learn about us, get us into their everyday lives, so , we can grow,” said Jean.
Ultimately, he added, when big companies get involved in technology, “it's always good for everybody,” by bringing in more capital, talent and business opportunities.
Xreal aims for rapid growth
Still, Xreal is a small player in the market, holding just 2% market share, according to IDC – behind giants Meta, Sony with its PlayStation VR and TikTok parent ByteDance.
The company has not sold 250,000 of the headphones in its lifetime, down from the 150,000 it announced earlier in May.
Jin said the goal is to reach 1 million units annually, which he said he hopes could happen in the next two to three years.
Xreal counts several major investors, including a Chinese e-commerce giant Ali Baba and an electric car firm No. Jin said Xreal is “very actively talking to investors” about raising more money and is “in deep discussions” with some investment firms. He refused to give further details.