Nreal Dev kit

I just got the Nreal AR glasses dev kit. I’m going to skip unboxing and intro stuff since there are plenty of those on the web already. So this is a day 0 review, what I did as soon I got them. So lets jump right in.

First off, the glasses do not fit me properly. I had a chance to look at the Nreal glasses last year and knew this would an issue. The fix? Well since I have to wear glasses anyway, I fixed it with a few bread ties. Almost all engineering problems can be fixed with duct tape and bread ties.

Glasses hack

Now that I can see clearly, I first started up the puck and tried the demo experiences. They are good. Again, plenty of reviews on the web so unless there is a particular question, I can say in general the colors are bright, rendering seems around 30-45 fps, FOV is good enough. Images do have some swim and jitter, but that is dependent on the environment. In a perfect setting, the image hold position pretty well, more challenging, less stability as one would expect. Rotation correction (timewarp or pLSR depending on who you talk to) is pretty good. I point this out because I assume all the LSR functions are on the phone as well, but its possible pLSR is done on the headset. The NrealTower app does not work for some reason, still trying to sort that out. However, I’m not that interested in those, instead I want to connect to my phone.

<caution: segway rant ahead> A LONG time ago, I went to visit ODG in SF to have a look at their AR glasses. I have a background in 3D graphics, VR, and computer graphics going back to 1995, so I immediately saw a problem with their approach. This is going to be a world of hurt because of the power/heat requirements. So I asked; hey, can I get a set of glasses with only camera and IMU support? I want to run everything on the phone. Got a look like; ‘Are you nuts? No.’ I left there disappointed, but convinced that a successful AR HMD needs to do two things; be very lightweight, and have lots of content. Connecting to the phone does both. Our phones are powerful have as much access to content as our PCs. If I can get that content on my glasses, that would be worth the price. Que in something called Samsung DeX, and now I can have desktop experience in AR! Full disclosure, I work at Samsung in R&D and got a really hacked version of DeX in working in VR and AR a few years ago so I have already experienced how cool this could be. 🙂

Mobile work center: Samsung Fold, Bt. kybrd/mse, and now Nreal

So back to the Nreal. ALMOST right out of the box, I connected the glasses to my Galaxy S10 (later Samsung Fold) and boom! I have HDMI. BTW I say almost because you need to hold down brightness up to get into 3D mode on the glasses. So once that happens, DeX!! I already have a travel set up with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I was up right out of the box. A limitation right now is the display is headlocked. This is fixable by setting up a virtual display and getting RGB images from the video buffer to the HMD after performing timewarp or pLSR. Or something like that. I’m sure they will figure it out sooner or later. Once they do that, then I can have two screens, DeX in the glasses and the normal phone display. I was pretty impressed I could have both running at the same time. No sure how long this will last from a power point of view, so I need to experiment with this more. So all and all, my experience in DeX was great. Images are bright and clear. Easy to read text and if you keep the brightness down, no eye strain.

View of DeX through the Nreal

On day zero I had a web meeting that I needed to attend. As an experiment, I login via the PC like normal, but instead of using the PC, I connected the glasses. Same thing, HDMI headlocked video, just on the phone. I was able to participate in a 1hr online meeting using just the glasses, and bluetooth mouse. I was sitting up on the bed fully relaxing, drinking tea and had no problems reading content on the power point slides. I could even reply to messages when I later added my bluetooth keyboard. Tying on the phone is a bit if a challenge with the Nreals being headlocked.

This event is pretty key for a zero day experience. I was able to use the glasses right out of the box. Later I watched the news via YouTube on the phone. The only thing that stopped me using the glasses even longer is the hack I have to attach to my glasses are not the best. Once this is sorted out, I can see using these for long conf calls so I can walk away from my desk now and again.

So to sum up, on day Zero I had access to via the phone to a desktop experience (DeX), web browsing, office docs, videos, a few games, chat, photos, etc.. I know what you are going to ask; then why not get a HDMI HMD viewer? Few reasons. Headlocked is still a limitation. To free up headlock we need 3 DOF, min. 6 DoF is better in my mind. Plus the are going to be times I will want to full AR experience. I do not want to buy a device that cannot support this.

BTW: Follow up to this post. function follows form: consumer AR use-cases

Now some questions I got since people found out I had this.

Q: did you find the cable an issue? No, not really. I have a usbC extension cable so I feel pretty free, but mostly I just place the phone where ever and its fine. My wish right now is for DeX phone UI to support keyboard in addition to mouse entry. So this is a Samsung issue.

Q: Does it get hot? yes, but the heat dissipation is top front, so I never really feel it.

Q: Does WebXR work? I read that its coming end of the year. I will try to get invited as an early tester.

Q: How is your experience comparing Hololens 2.0? I’ve said many time before, the hololens is the best example of AR you can get. V2.0 is better but not a massive jump. That being said, the CV on the hololens 1 is better then Nreal. The graphics feel about the same as far as brightness and ease on my eyes. (headset fit not withstanding). I do not think the Nreal will ever be as good as the HL in terms in CV, but it does not need to be. Two different products with two different customer segments.

Q: Does it feel heavy after long use? Hard to say. Longest I have used it is 1.5 hrs and both times I was either laying down and reclining, so the weight was a bit more off the nose then if I wore it standing. So more testing to do.

Q: How was reading text? Again it was headlocked so until they support at least 3DoF, I will hold back judgement, but while headlocked, I could read fine.

Q: Can you connect to a PC? Yes. you get pretty much the same experience as DeX. Same problem though, headlocked.

Q: How does it compare to Magic Leap, since they are both tethered? So quick answer, it was pretty much the same. I got used the Magic Leap tether pretty quickly and same with the Nreal. What is better about the Nreal is of course, I can plug it into various devices and I have an usbc extension and that gave me extra room. But from a user point of view. it was a non issue. Somewhat like wearing wired headphones, you figure out the best way to route the wire, then you forget about it. The only case where I can see the wire becoming an issue is if I was doing a high activity experience, like beat saber or something like that. And even then, I’m sure I could figure something out.

Q: How is DEX in AR? Did you not just read this post?! 🙂

Any other questions? Let me know and I’ll add them.

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