How NReal's iOS-Compatible AR Glasses Could Give You a Taste of Apple VR - Update

Sleek headsets rule

  • New virtual reality headsets are lighter and less bulky than models like the Meta Quest 2. 
  • The NReal AI augmented reality glasses are now available in the US and look similar to regular sunglasses. 
  • Apple’s rumored upcoming mixed reality headset may combine the NReal’s sleek design with powerful hardware.
Someone laying on a couch, using NReal Air glasses connected to an iPhone.


You soon might want to toss out your bulky virtual reality headset thanks to a new wave of sleeker devices.

NReal is finally bringing its Air augmented reality (AR) glasses to the US, which the company is pitching as a device for streaming shows and playing games. You can even use the headset with Mac devices or an iOS phone or tablet with an optional adaptor. Experts say the AIR will give Mac users a taste of the power of Apple's rumored upcoming headset

"Apple's rumored 'mixed reality' headset will have several exterior cameras and sensors that will incorporate real-world places into a virtual space," Anastasiia Gliebova, the CEO of V-Art, which makes VR and AR experiences, told Lifewire in an email interview. "It will also allow users to communicate with compatible phones via Wi-Fi 6E wireless technology. Since the device will use a separate SoC (System on a Chip) architecture (some M2 products), it will also have better graphics performance along with low power consumption."

Virtual Air

The NReal Air are lightweight AR smart glasses that aim to offer an immersive viewing experience to smartphone users. The glasses look similar to Ray-Ban's classic Wayfarer sunglasses, but the NReal Air has built-in OLED screens that emulate a display measuring 130-inches when viewed at a simulated distance of 3 meters and a massive 201-inches at a virtual distance of 6 meters. The  OLED screens deliver a pixel density as high as 49 pixels per degree and 90Hz refresh rate support.

"NReal Air will set a new level of portability and display quality," Gliebova said. "But NReal Air also has drawbacks like the presence of a power cord and the inability to easily use it, for instance, while walking on the sidewalk."

The manufacturer will offer a dongle ($59) that allows its AR glasses to work with an iPhone. However, users will also need to purchase the official Apple Digital AV Adapter ($35) that plugs into the NReal dongle. "So, this is a clunky and not very cost-effective solution for iOS users," Gliebova added. 

NReal's Nebula software provides MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users with a virtual user interface that can project multiple displays in front of users. However, Gleibova pointed out,  NReal macOS compatibility is limited to Macs running on Apple Silicon (M1 and M2 chips). The company has not yet said if or when Intel-based Macs would get support for Nebula.

But Jason Yim, the CEO of Trigger XR, a mixed reality agency, predicted in an email interview with Lifewire that the NReal headset and Apple's device will deliver very different experiences. NReal Air's primary feature is creating a virtual/spatial 2D screen anywhere, while Apple will reportedly deliver true mixed reality experiences, initially at home versus on the go. 

"There are many rumors about the Apple headset," Yim added. "Many are guessing it will be a 'pass-through' mixed reality device, similar to the much more expensive Varjo XR3 (for enterprise) and Meta's upcoming Cambria. In addition to 'best in class' industrial design, I think they will offer a unique system to deliver AR content in your room synced to other media: Apple Music, Games, and TV."

The Future of VR

The new NReal glasses are part of a trend in the industry towards more comfortable headsets with new capabilities, observers say. Chris Brickler, the CEO of MyndVR, which creates VR experiences for seniors, said in an email interview that the biggest change in the VR space is the shift from VR headsets to immersive glasses, like HTC's VIVE Flow

A person using VR glasses in an industrial setting.

Westend61 / Getty Images

"The Flow looks and feels more like a pair of sunglasses—smaller, lighter, no head strap, and generally friendlier to a new user, especially the older adults that we focus on," he added. "We also appreciate the easy ability to focus the lenses for each user, with or without prescription glasses."

Brickler said that VR is moving beyond gaming to features and experiences that aim to provide health benefits. For example, the company's MyndExplorer feature tries to make it easy for seniors to virtually travel the world. 

"Similarly, our MyndConnect features provide intergenerational connectivity across long distances, allowing families to actually share new VR experiences together in real-time, rather than just talking about the same old stuff on the phone," he added. 

Update: I recently bought the NReal Air and have been testing it with my iPhone 12 Pro Max and 16-inch MacBook Pro. After using the Air for a few weeks, I have found them to be handy for working on the go. While the display quality can’t match high-end monitors, having a gigantic screen seemingly projected in front of your face is a huge plus. I also love the Air for its compact size. I can imagine that as technology advances, one day soon, you won’t need to tote around a laptop and it will be replaced with glasses like the NReal.

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