The popularity of consumer-facing smart glasses is on the rise in China. Since the beginning of this year, Nreal, Rokid, Thunderbird Innovation and a Xiaomi-affiliated firm have all released new products, including AR glasses and corresponding intelligent terminal equipment. ByteDance’s VR brand PICO released a new-generation VR headset called PICO 4. AR startup Thin Red Line recently secured nearly 400 million yuan ($54.74 million) in an angel investment round, with plans to start a new round of financing at the end of October.
On October 18, Hangzhou-based Rokid released an intelligent terminal for AR glasses, Rokid Station, whose main function is to enrich the content ecology and bring about more applications for users. Two days later, Thunderbird Innovation released a new generation of consumer-grade XR glasses, the Thunderbird Air 1S, which brings users a 130-inch high-definition giant virtual screen, applied to scenarios such as watching movies, games, office work, unmanned aerial vehicles and intelligent cockpits. Unlike Rokid’s terminal devices, Thunderbird Air 1S needs to be connected to an iPhone, Switch, PS, XBOX and other devices in order to experience various services.
In addition to Rokid and Thunderbird Innovation, Nreal launched three products for the Chinese market in August, including two AR glasses and a switching device. In August, Xiaomi released the first mass-produced camera in the form of glasses, developed by Superhexa.
In fact, as early as 10 years ago, Google released an AR glasses product called “Google Project Glass,” which has many functions such as taking pictures, video chatting, walking and driving navigation, sending and receiving instant messages and emails. However, there were few adaptable applications on the market, and AR technology was in its infancy. The Google AR glasses with high price tags finally disappeared from the public’s attention.
Ten years later, technologies related to AR glasses have undergone significant upgrades, and new trends such as 5G have emerged, laying down further technical support for AR glasses. The attention of capital markets has injected a new vitality into the industry.
According to data by AskCI Consulting, in the first half of 2022, 38 financing transactions were conducted in China’s VR and AR field, with a total amount of 3.632 billion yuan. However, in terms of technical performance, user experience, application ecology and other aspects, AR glasses are still immature. The discomfort of wearing the devices for a long time, interaction that is far less smooth than on smartphones and PCs, and poor image quality pose challenges for virtual experience lovers.
According to Meridian Capital China, in around 2025-2026, the AR glasses field may see an acceleration period due to two factors. First, consumers will be able to buy devices that replace most functions of smartphones at a lower price. Second, AR glasses offer some key applications and functions that smartphones can’t realize.