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Nreal Light MR Headset Ships This Year for $499

(Image credit: Nreal)

Most virtual, augmented, or mixed reality headsets are bulky devices that can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods. Nreal set out to change that with Nreal Light, an MR headset that's about the size of a large pair of sunglasses. The company announced on May 30 that it's releasing the Nreal Light Consumer Kit "later this year" and rolling out the Nreal Light Developer Kit starting in September 2019.

We tested Nreal Light at CES 2019 and came away impressed by the AR image quality that allowed us to watch a football game without losing sight of the show floor. The headset was also light--so light that it nearly slipped off a few times--and comfortable despite their narrowness. Our time with the headset at CES 2019 was limited, of course, so those were just our preliminary impressions of the device.

At the time, January, Nreal said it expected to start shipping limited quantities of the Nreal Light in the second quarter of 2019  at around $1,000. The company made a few changes in the months between CES 2019 and its May 30 announcement. Nreal now says it will sell just the headset, in a package called the Nreal Light Consumer Kit, for $500 to a limited number of customers before upping production in 2020.

The version of the headset we tested at CES 2019 included the Nreal Light itself as well as a CPU/controller combo that featured a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The Nreal Light Consumer Kit only costs $500 because it ditches the CPU and controller, which means it relies on a USB-C connection to a compatible Android smartphone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform to function.

Nreal also separated its "computing unit" and 3DoF controller for the Nreal Light Developer Kit debuting in September 2019. That version of the hardware costs more than the company predicted in January; it starts at $1,200. Would-be buyers have to apply to purchase the device by sharing their previous development experience or plans for the platform. Interested devs can apply via Nreal's website.

But the Nreal Light's pricing and configurations weren't the only things Nreal changed after CES 2019. The company said in its recent announcement that Nreal Light now features an improved fit that reduces "the front-heavy pressure on the nose," foldable temples that make it easier to store the headset and multiple color options that will be revealed when the company starts shipping the device.

Nreal also partnered with more companies to offer 5G wireless compatibility in the Nreal Light. The company announced during Mobile World Congress 2019 in February a collaboration with Qualcomm and LG Uplus to offer "low latency and high data throughput on-the-go." (It also announced efforts to create MR content that takes advantage of 5G networking.) Now, it's working with the following carriers in addition to LG Uplus: China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, EE, KDDI, KT, Softbank Corp. and Swisscom.

More information can be found on the Nreal website.