2022 was a tough year for the AR/VR market as global shipments fell sharply to 8.8 million units for the full year — down 20.9% compared to 2021, according to data by IDC. Analysts say the drop was expected because this is a nascent market and certain global events have huge impacts on it (both positive and negative).
In 2021, the pandemic caused many people to stay home with disposable money, and this was an opportunity for makers of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. It also helped that the price hike for electronics components and logistics hadn’t hit full force just yet, so the likes of the Meta Quest 2 was still $300 – that price rose to $400 last year (note: that’s for the 128GB model, the 256GB one It was $500 but its price dropped to $430 a few days ago).
Meta Quest 2
Right now, there’s a very strong division between headsets that can do virtual reality and headsets that can do augmented reality. There are also some “mixed reality” headsets, which can combine augmented and virtual reality. These so-called “XR” headphones include the Meta Quest Pro and HTC Vive XR Elite, which cost $1,000 and $1,100 respectively, a bit more than headphones that focus on one or the other.
Meta commands about 80% of the total VR/AR market, and ByteDance (yes, the company behind TikTok) is a distant second at 10% behind its acquisition of Pico. The other companies in the top five are DPVR, HTC, and iQIYI. Sony launched its new PSVR 2 headset last month and the company claims there will be no supply issues, so we’ll see how much of the VR market it can capture.
The market for pure augmented reality glasses is very different — Nreal dominates with nearly 100,000 shipments last year. Here are the 5 best augmented reality glasses:
- 1. NRIL – 98,000
- 2. Microsoft – 35,000
- 3. Rocks – 30,000
- 4. TCL — nearly 30,000
- 5. Epson – 13,000
Note that Nreal ranked sixth in the overall VR/AR market, which is mostly focused on VR at the moment.
“While Meta and ByteDance are excelling in the virtual reality segment, Nreal has been slowly increasing its presence by attracting mobile gamers,” said Jitesh Ubrani, Director of Research, Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers at IDC. Although it is still early days for augmented reality and virtual reality, Meta has managed to build a moat for itself with its diverse first and third party content. This is where other players like Sony and perhaps Apple can offer meaningful competition though. In the long run it will put pressure on others including ByteDance and Nreal.”
Nreal’s offerings include the Air AR glasses, which are currently selling for $380 on Amazon. These are fairly lightweight and look a lot like regular sunglasses. The Air has a 3,840 x 1,080-pixel OLED screen and creates an image equivalent to a 130-inch screen at 4m/13ft (46° FOV with 49 pixels per notch).
Nreal Air AR glasses
Nreal Air offloads processing to an external device – you can use it for gaming on the go with your Nintendo Switch or Valve Steam Deck. Alternatively, it could be an extra screen for your PS5 or Xbox Series X at home.
They work with Android phones too through the Nebula app and there’s a beta version for Macs that uses the glasses’ 6DoF tracking to create multiple virtual screens around the wearer.
Nreal Air AR glasses can be used for gaming, video streaming, and as multiple virtual displays
“At Nreal, we are proud to have led the way in driving innovation and growth in the AR industry by creating augmented reality glasses that represent the next generation of computing interfaces,” said Qi Xu, founder and CEO of Nreal. “Our mission has always been to create AR technology that is easy to use and intuitive, and we are excited to continue advancing innovation in the AR industry as we redefine how people live, work, and play.”