Google’s Android apps are coming in 3D via Xreal as competition with Apple’s Vision Pro heats up


Xreal, an augmented reality glasses maker, has launched a connected Beam Pro mobile device that allows users to capture spatial video and 3D images.

BEIJING — Games and movies on Google Play Store apps can now be viewed in three dimensions via a new Android mobile device from augmented reality glasses maker Xreal, the Alibaba-backed startup said Tuesday.

The Beam Pro, the company’s latest product, is a smartphone-like device that can be used with AR glasses as a virtual mouse, and links the headset to Google Play Store apps including those for gaming, movie streaming and social media.

Augmented reality imposes digital images over the real world, giving someone wearing AR glasses the impression of being in a 3D virtual space.

Xreal’s latest product launch is an indication of how Alphabet is keeping afoot in the headset space after retiring Google Glass, even as Apple launched its widely anticipated VR offering this year.

Apple‘s Vision Pro allows users to see apps and a digitally captured version of the real world using what the company calls spatial computing technology.

Xreal sells a range of AR glasses, some as light as 72 grams (2.5 ounces), that can display the screen of a connected laptop, smartphone or gaming console. The Beam Pro, which connects to the glasses via a cord, is set to begin U.S. deliveries by August and has a starting price of $199.

“We’re hoping this one can finally became the hero product that people gonna really like,” Chi Xu, founder and CEO of Xreal, told CNBC in an interview.

“I think this actually [is] gonna be the new category standard,” he said, adding some smartphone makers might “actually want to go this route.”

Xu said part of the challenge for wider AR glasses adoption has been the lack of content, and the inability to incorporate user-generated images.

That’s starting to change this year. The Beam Pro has two cameras that can capture pictures and videos for three-dimensional viewing in AR glasses, similar to Apple Vision Pro’s advertised ability to capture “3D spatial photos and videos.”

Xreal said the Beam Pro uses Nvidia CloudXR technology for image rendering and Qualcomm‘s Snapdragon spatial computing platform. The startup said it is also collaborating with Amazon Web Services to explore ways for improving the product’s processing power and functions.

According to IDC Research, Xreal had the largest market share in global AR headsets in 2023.

“Companies such as XREAL and Rokid demonstrated that there is an audience for AR glasses to consume gaming and multimedia content without spending thousands of dollars, and this will no doubt attract the attention of other companies seeking to do the same,” Ramon T. Llamas, research director with IDC’s Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality team, said in a report in April.

A pair of Xreal AR glasses costs around $200 to $400, depending on the model and sales promotion.

That means a set of Xreal AR glasses and Beam Pro costs significantly less than $1,000. Apple charges $3,500 for its Vision Pro.

Different glasses by user

Xu said Xreal has sold “really close to 400,000” AR glasses since the company launched in 2017. He said average weekly usage is about 4 hours, with the top 15% exceeding 10 hours a week.

The company said in January it had shipped 350,000 AR glasses. Around the same time, Xreal said it received a $60 million injection that valued the startup at more than $1 billion.

I think this one [is going to] bring the cloud gaming to the next level.
Chi Xu
founder and CEO, Xreal

Xu said he expects tech glasses will evolve in three directions at the same time, ranging from a heavier and pricier virtual reality headset to a light-weight frame that can be worn all the time.

“Unfortunately, we won’t see the kind of iPhone moment where everybody is converging to just one point,” he said, noting the variety of headset experiences. “I believe different people find different kind of flavor and combination there. But all of them haven’t taken off yet.”

It’s unclear how many Vision Pros Apple has sold since it launched in the U.S. earlier this year. The headset is due to launch outside the U.S. on June 28, beginning in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

The Beam Pro launched in China in late May. As of June 12, it had reached just under 5,000 orders, Xu said, adding he hoped that by the end of a mid-June promotional period, orders would reach about 10,000.

Cloud gaming potential

By late August or early September, Xu expects the Xreal Beam Pro will be able to use 5G cellular networks in addition to Wifi.

Xu said 5G support creates new opportunities for the development of cloud gaming, and that Xreal is already in talks with major global cloud gaming companies.

“I think this one [is going to] bring the cloud gaming to the next level because, honestly, if you only play cloud gaming on a cell phone, the size of the screen didn’t make that much sense, but [when] you can put AR glasses there, you have a massive screen,” Xu said.

Cloud gaming relies on remote servers and an internet connection to offer people a smooth gaming experience with just a small file download.

As for non-gaming applications, Xu said Xreal’s strategy is to build on people’s existing technological habits using smartphones and changing that slowly into a 3D space.

“We’re not trying to change people’s way of using technology dramatically, right?” he said. “We’re trying to take small steps and make that faster.”

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