To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Nreal Air Glasses: Like Looking Into The Possible Future Of Gaming

Nreal Air Glasses: Like Looking Into The Possible Future Of Gaming

It's like Minority Report without the crime.

I remember back in the early 2000s, when sci-fi movies were coming up with wild new ways to imagine what kind of technological advancements humankind would be making in its not-so-distant future. No film better encapsulated this - to my mind anyway - than 2002’s Minority Report. Self-driving cars, personalised ads and voice automation on our home devices have all, bewilderingly, come to fruition, but it’s the gesture-based user interface that has so far eluded mainstream popularity.

My 12 year old brain still yearns for this kind of technology, and I was particularly excited when EE offered me the opportunity to mess around with an interesting new piece of kit from Chinese AR developer Nreal - the Air glasses. Now, I should preface this and temper expectations - the Air glasses are nowhere near as futuristic as Tom Cruise’s screen gesticulations in Minority Report. We’ve already seen the rise and fall and apparent rise again of Google Glass, and companies like Meta and Apple have also set their sights on the wearable AR tech space, so the idea isn’t a unique one, but the applications of it are certainly more than enough to pique the interest.

“Air [is] a personal, portable movie theater with a massive virtual screen,” says Nreal Product Manager Yiping. That high-contrast OLED is around 200 inches, supporting of over 16 million colours, and is cast (via USB-C cable) from a smartphone using Nreal’s purpose built Nebula app. Air is also versatile, and can be used to play video games via Xbox Game Pass and supports up to five different screens running simultaneously that can be set up to cater to whatever it is you want to check out - from Sports channels to YouTube and more.

As mentioned, EE is partnering with Nreal in the UK and is bundling the Air glasses in with their Smart and Full Works plans, with the idea being that you can take them anywhere on your travels and have the full comfort of your home entertainment whilst on the move thanks to the 5G capabilities of the network. EE sent me an Oppo Find X5 Pro phone, with the intention being that I’d be able to make the best of 5G cloud gaming on their network. We’ll get to what that was like in just a moment, but it’s worth pointing out that if you were looking to get a pair of Air glasses yourself, not all smartphones will be compatible. iPhones, for example, won’t work and lower end handsets are right out, because they won’t be able to keep up with the high demands of the Nebula app. My Google Pixel 3a XL for example isn’t supported by the app, hence the high-end loaner handset.

Nreal Air glasses /
Nreal, EE

As the press release that accompanied the glasses states, “connecting a Bluetooth gaming controller can turn a smartphone into a portable console when coupled with a game-streaming platform.” Naturally, this is exactly what I’ve done; hooking up an Xbox controller and playing games like Forza Horizon 4 and Halo: Infinite on my own private screen. I have to say, it’s kind of brilliant. A real trip that’s quite difficult to convey with words alone. There’s very much a wow factor having a giant screen right there, acting as an overlay to the real world. I even had some none-techy friends try it and they too were shocked at how crisp the image was and how negligible the lag, even in the middle of nowhere rural Nottingham.

The screen quality is astounding, and the ability to game quite peacefully while in a room with other people watching another screen and chatting away, still able to see and interact with them with minimal interruption feels like the next evolution of mobile gaming. The only small caveat for me is that I am a certified blind boy and am short-sighted enough to the point where I need glasses to see monitors. The Air glasses do come with detachable lenses that you can take to your opticians and ask them to plop your prescription on, so if you were to buy a set and need glasses to game, you wouldn’t be left wanting.

Nreal Air glasses /

The next hurdle for me is nausea. VR games make me feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with the Nemesis Inferno after about 15 minutes of use, and I was worried that having a screen stuck in front of my eyes following every head movement would become disorienting. I’m happy to report that it doesn’t. At all. Likely because your brain can still see everything that’s going on and recognises where reality ends and the screen begins.

In Nebula, two options are presented when you start up the app; MR Space and Air Casting. Air Casting is pretty much what it says on the tin. It casts whatever is happening on your phone screen to the Air glasses. This is what users will want for playing games, movies and pretty much anything else that would take advantage of that 200” screen. There’s also MR Space which is much more in line with the whole Minority Report metaphor I clumsily put together at the start of this piece. Using the phone as a kind of wand or remote, you can dictate up to five windows that can be played within your field of view. I managed to get YouTube, BT Sport, BBC iPlayer and Netflix all up and running at the same time with no issues which is a testament to the glasses and to EE’s 5G. The only real problem was my poor brain trying to figure out what to watch.

Nreal AIr glasses /

One thing that I kept thinking back to whilst using the Air was a piece of tech I looked at about a year ago called Nextmind. Nextmind essentially straps to the back of your head and reads your brainwaves to link up with a computer program that can then tell where you’re looking, and respond accordingly. In short, your eyes and brain are controlling the computer in front of you without the need for any kind of controllers or remotes. Coupled with Air, I could foresee a very useful and potentially life-changing partnership where the brain and technology work in tandem to create something wildly and excitingly futuristic. Pure fantasy on my part, but still a very cool target to aim at.

Checking out the Nreal website, you’ll quickly see that the company is pushing them as a fashion statement, as much as a piece of technology. “Watch anytime, anywhere; limitless entertainment at home, office, outdoors or a plane” is one of their marketing straps and pretty much sums up the direction they’re looking to take. 

That is something I would… beg to differ on. Straight out of the box, they remind me of those cheap 3D glasses you get from the cinema - you know the kind you pay £1 extra for and chuck in the bin at the end of the movie. They’re a little clunky (though only weigh 79g) what with housing two lenses and two screens, and the USB-C input and audio hardware in the arms. When you consider the amount of technology held in the glasses then for sure, you can appreciate just how svelte they are, but to posture them as fashionable, in my opinion, requires an awfully positive outlook on what people might willingly wear out in public. At any rate, setup of the device is remarkably easy. You literally just take it out of the box, plug it in to your phone and you’re away. No need to install anything other than the Nebula app, no unwieldy amount of wires or reading through heaps of manuals in order to understand what’s going on. Bonus points for ease of use. 

Nreal Air glasses /

Realistically, you have to recognise Nreal’s Air glasses for what they are - a really cool glimpse into the future possibilities of entertainment, both at home and on the go. Are they going to become the hottest new trend, adorning the sea of faces on your morning commute and at the local farmer’s market? No, probably not. The desire just isn’t there for it. But saying that, I do dream of a world where that is the case, so will remain quietly optimistic that we do spin off into that timeline. Overall, I had fun with the Air glasses which is kind of the whole point at this stage in their life.

If you feel like you’re in the market for a pair of Nreal Air glasses, they’re only available in the UK through EE and cost a princely £399. If you’re already on EE then you can spread the cost monthly through your existing price plan over 11 months at £35 a month and a one-off Add On fee of £10. Some stores have demo units available if you’d like to try before you buy (which I’d highly recommend) or check out the EE website for more information. Here’s a list of the UK stores that have Air glasses on site: Tottenham Court Road, Westfield Stratford, Westfield White City (Lower), One Braham, Nottingham Victoria, Oxford Westgate, Bristol Cribbs Causeway Upper, Gateshead Metro 3 and Liverpool One.

Featured Image Credit: Nreal

Topics: Real Life, Mobile Games, VR