The idea of augmented reality sunglasses that instantly project a cinema-sized screen in front of you might sound like a concept from the latest sci-fi blockbuster.
But they are set to become a reality next week, with EE launching Nreal Air eyewear in the UK.
The futuristic glasses look like an ordinary pair of sunglasses from the front, but have two OLED displays hidden behind the lenses.
When connected to a smartphone, they can project a 201-inch “Imax-sized” virtual screen 20 feet in front of your eyes, allowing you to stream movies and play games on 5G on the go.
Prior to their UK launch via EE on May 20th, MailOnline’s Shivali Best got to try out the £ 399.99 smart glasses.
Prior to their UK launch via EE on May 20th, MailOnline’s Shivali Best got to try out the £ 399.99 smart glasses
The futuristic glasses look like an ordinary pair of sunglasses from the front, but have two OLED displays hidden behind the lenses
Nreal Air glasses: main specifications
Open form factor: 148mm x 52mm x 159mm
Closed form factor: 148mm x 52mm x 60mm
Power: Up to 5 hours in Air Casting mode
Weight: 79 grams
Virtual screen size: 130 inches in Air Casting mode, 201 inches in MR Space mode
Audio: 2 open ear speakers
Price: £ 399.99
Availability: May, 20th
When I first heard about the Nreal Air goggles, I struggled to imagine how they would work or why anyone would want to use them instead of a standard screen.
However, trying them on my own, I was pleasantly surprised at how effective they were and I can definitely see the charm.
The sunglasses have a classic Wayfarer-style design and, despite being equipped with two OLED screens, they are surprisingly light, weighing just 79g.
They connect to your smartphone via a basic USB-C cable and instantly project a huge screen right in front of your eyes, with tiny speakers in the arms playing audio directly into your ears.
In Mixed Reality mode, you can watch YouTube videos or browse the web, with the ability to open multiple screens simultaneously in portrait or landscape orientation.
To navigate in this mode, the smartphone acts as a virtual pointer.
As you point your smartphone at the virtual screen in front of you, a white laser line appears and you can tap your smartphone to “click” on an app or object you want to interact with.
It took a while to get used to, but this is likely a feature that becomes second nature after a few sessions, just like using the trackpad on a laptop.
My favorite feature in Mixed Reality mode was a cycling tool, where you could choose different routes around the world and see them appear in front of you.
I chose a route along the Malibu coast, which appeared in front of me while pedaling on a static bike, something that would certainly have made a gym session more attractive!
The other mode is Air Casting, where your smartphone is reflected on the virtual screen in front of you.
When connected to a smartphone, they can project a 201-inch “Imax-sized” virtual screen 20 feet in front of your eyes, allowing you to stream movies and play games on 5G on the go
Connecting a Bluetooth game controller can also turn your smartphone into a handheld console when paired with a game streaming platform
This opens the viewing options to any apps you have installed on your smartphone, including games, streaming apps, or social media.
For example, tapping on the BT Sports app, I was able to enjoy a rugby match on the 130-inch virtual screen, while tapping on the MailOnline app allowed me to browse the main stories of the day.
Connecting a Bluetooth game controller can also turn your smartphone into a handheld console when paired with a game streaming platform.
I’ve been testing a game on a connected Xbox, which I have to admit I’ve been terrible at, but I can definitely see glasses become options for more experienced gamers who don’t have access to a big screen.
In Mixed Reality mode, users can stretch the virtual screen in front of them up to 201 inches, almost like being in an IMAX theater
To navigate in this mode, the smartphone acts as a virtual pointer. As you point your smartphone at the virtual screen in front of you, a white laser line appears and you can tap your smartphone to “click” on an app or object you want to interact with.
I was pleasantly surprised at how realistic the virtual screen was in front of my eyes and I can see myself using it at the gym or on vacation, when I can’t easily access a large screen TV
One problem with glasses is battery life – the frames themselves don’t have a battery and instead your smartphone powers the glasses.
While EE boasts up to five hours of video streaming in Air Casting mode, this would likely drain your smartphone of all its power.
And with the glasses connected to the smartphone via USB-C, the only option to charge them while in use would be to purchase a wireless charger.
The glasses are also priced fairly high at £ 399.99 which is likely to put off some buyers.
It is important to note that Nreal Air goggles are available for 39,799 yen (£ 254) in Japan, almost £ 150 cheaper than in the UK.
However, EE is offering existing customers the option to spread the cost of the glasses over 11 months for £ 35 per month plus an upfront cost of £ 10, which may be more tempting.
As with all smart glasses, seeing is believing.
I was pleasantly surprised at how realistic the virtual screen was in front of my eyes and I can see myself using it at the gym or on vacation, when I can’t easily access a large screen TV.
If you are interested in seeing them in person, I recommend that you visit one of EE’s flagship stores starting May 20th.
WHICH COMPANIES WORK ON AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES?
Last year, Snap unveiled its next generation of Spectacles, the first to introduce augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) glasses have seen a resurgence of desirability, with a number of companies working to develop their own technology.
Bose recently joined a rapidly growing list of tech companies building augmented reality glasses.
The first company to participate in the tender was Google, which released Google Glass in 2011.
Google Glass, now called Glass, has been transformed from a consumer-facing product to an enterprise product used by companies like Boeing.
Since then, several companies have come out with their own products.
Secret startup Magic Leap began working on a prototype several years ago, but eventually debuted its “mixed reality” smart glasses in 2018.
Technology company Vuzix, based in Rochester, New York, launched its Vuzix Blade eyewear in 2019 for around $ 1,300.
They use a small projector to show a virtual image in the upper right corner of their lenses.
Users can connect to Wi-Fi and read emails and other messages via the display, as well as use Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, to issue voice commands.
Amazon is also rumored to be working on their own AR glasses that will be released in the future.
Additionally, Intel released its smart glasses prototype, the Vaunt, earlier this year.
The glasses use retinal projection to put a small display on the wearer’s eyeball.
Snap has launched its Spectacles and there are rumors that Facebook and Apple are working on AR glasses.
Niantic, the American company Pokemon Go, also revealed that it is partnering with Qualcomm to create its own AR headset technology.