Xreal Air 2 Ultra is an affordable alternative to the Apple Vision Pro, apparently


Xreal, formerly Nreal, hosted one of the busiest booths at CES in recent years, so it’s no surprise that the company is back with new AR glasses for CES 2024 — especially given the much anticipated launch of Apple’s Vision Pro. Following the Nreal Light from 2019, the brand new Xreal Air 2 Ultra finally brings back 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) spatial tracking and hand tracking, along with a wider 52-degree FOV (field of view) and a 42-pixel-per-degree sharpness within an 80-gram titanium package. The firm goes as far as claiming that these specs make the $699 Air 2 Ultra a compelling alternative to the $3,499 Vision Pro.

Unlike the standalone mixed reality headsets, the Air 2 series of glasses need to be powered by an external computing unit, such as a smartphone, a computer or Xreal’s Beam module, via USB-C. While the earlier Air 2 Pro and Air 2 were positioned more as personal display wearables, the Air 2 Ultra emphasizes on its 6DoF spatial computing capabilities, meaning virtual objects can be mapped to the real world while you walk around.

This is enabled by the front-facing dual 3D environment sensors, as well as the Qualcomm Snapdragon processors on the Samsung Galaxy S23 or S22, iPhone 15, or any Mac or Windows machine that can run Xreal’s Nebula launcher. If you already own an Xreal Beam, you can also plug the Air 2 Ultra in for a 3DoF experience (read: just simple head tracking) with video playback or console gaming. Oddly enough, the company doesn’t plan on supporting more smartphones at the moment, but it is prepping a new custom computing unit to go with the Air 2 Ultra at some point.

Xreal Air 2 Ultra

Xreal

Like the Pro, the Air 2 Ultra’s front layer supports three electrochromic dimming levels for increased immersion (without the need of a physical shield), as well as directional audio technology for improved privacy, and dual microphones for voice interaction. You’ll find the same old Sony micro OLED panels with 1080p resolution per eye, a refresh rate of up to 120Hz (90Hz in 3D mode) and brightness of up to 500 nits (250 nits in 3D mode). Xreal added that these glasses can cast a virtual 2D screen “at an equivalent of 154 inches from a distance of 13 feet,” and that they are “TÜV Rheinland-certified for Color Accuracy, Eye Comfort, Low Blue Light, and Flicker Free usage.”

The $699 Xreal Air 2 Ultra is available for pre-order now, and if you bought an Nreal Light a while back, you’re most likely eligible for a $100 discount. That’s still not quite as aggressive as the Meta Quest 3’s $500 base price, but then again, the Air 2 Ultra is largely aimed at developers for the time being. For one, Xreal’s upcoming Unity-based NRSDK 2.2 won’t be available until these glasses start shipping in March. Only then will developers be able to leverage the improved hand tracking, hand gesture recognition, spatial anchors, depth mesh and more. That is to say, Xreal will need to win over as many developers as possible to build up its mixed reality ecosystem, before getting consumers’ attention at all, if not enterprises — the latter has been the case for HTC, which announced that it was sending VR headsets to the International Space Station back in November.



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