SHANGHAI — Nreal, a Chinese company that makes glasses for so-called augmented reality experiences, wants to go public within five years, its CEO told The Washington City Times.
“We think this is a really big tech market and really looking forward to what’s going to happen in the next 10 to 15 years. Very exciting — I think it’s more like ’06, ’07 of the smartphone business,” Chi Xu , said CEO of Nreal.
“We see a lot of good opportunities and, certainly, we think the market size will be huge. And we have this opportunity and we want to take this to the end.”
He said an initial public offering could come in “less than 5 years.”
The company’s flagship product is a lightweight pair of glasses called Nreal Light, which has been released in a handful of markets, including South Korea and Japan. Nreal says its glasses allow users to experience “mixed reality,” overlaying digital images over the real world.
The Nreal Light connects to a smartphone. One of the immediate uses is keeping people from being tied to their tiny smartphone screens.
“Whatever you show on the cell phone screen in front of you, you put that in front of your face, in a huge screen, and that can be 3D, that can be ultra-high definition,” Xu said.
A participant tries on Nreal mixed-reality glasses at the MWC Shanghai exhibition in Shanghai, China, on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nreal’s ambitions pit it against tech giants who see a bright future in augmented reality. Apple CEO Tim Cook has called AR the “next big thing” and the iPhone giant is reportedly working on a headset. Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other tech companies are all investing in AR.
But today’s headsets on the market are expensive and often bulky. Nreal hopes its portable nature will appeal to consumers. The price varies by market depending on how it is distributed. In Japan, for example, the headset costs about $700. But in South Korea, the device can be purchased through a telecom operator’s plan that subsidizes the headset up to about $300.
Nreal has a platform for developers to create apps for the headset operating system called Nebula.
“It’s very similar to what Apple has done for smartphones,” Xu said. “We’re providing a platform where people use that for different kinds of experiences and developers — they can implement, they can develop different content in the field.”
Not only does Apple make money from the sale of its iPhones and other hardware, but it also earns revenue from App Store commissions.
Nreal has some notable backers. Kuaishou, the short video platform in China and iQiyi, a video streaming service, are among the company’s investors. Xu said Nreal would work with both Kuaishou and iQiyi.
“As we said, we’re not just going to provide the hardware. We want to bundle different services with the glasses. So take video for example, whether it’s a long video or a short video. We think glasses are a much better terminal to experience the video,” said the CEO.
“So that’s why we’ll be working with those giants, really on the new interface.”