Chinese augmented reality company Nreal is launching a Steam beta on its Nreal Light and Nreal Air AR glasses, letting users stream games from a PC to a virtual big screen. The company says its beta will go live at the end of June, coinciding loosely with a June 27th hackathon designed to attract AR developers with $100,000 in cash prizes. The move could expand Nreal’s software ecosystem and offer more to do in a pair of surprisingly good — but still limited — early AR glasses.
Nreal suggests the Steam beta could be finicky, admitting in a press release that it “requires a bit of setup effort and is not optimized for all Steam games.” It will join the option to stream Xbox Cloud Gaming titles through Nreal’s Nebula platform as well as a variety of streaming video apps. Nreal touts the beta as compatible with Dirt Rally and the Halo series. It promises users will see their games on the equivalent of a 200-inch HD screen.
Nreal’s Light glasses, which rolled out first in Asia before launching in the US last year, are designed to be plugged into a Samsung or OnePlus Android phone. They’re less full-featured than high-end business-focused headsets from companies like Magic Leap and Microsoft, but they’re also far more affordable at $599 and support relatively advanced features like AR anchoring and hand tracking. (The Air glasses are a lighter but more limited set of smart glasses designed for streaming video.)
But there’s also a limited amount of content that takes advantage of these features, and in the US particularly, the Nebula platform launched without support for popular streaming apps like Netflix — requiring users to watch videos with the less convenient Android app mirroring system. Nreal’s AR Jam development contest will incentivize creating apps in areas like fitness and art as well as converting existing apps into AR. In addition to the cash prizes for the event, it says it intends to create a longer-term fund for incubating AR development.
AR glasses are an increasing area of focus for major companies like Meta and Apple, and while Nreal was an early entrant to the market, it could be facing an increasingly crowded field. But every company is still figuring out what to do with AR glasses — and features like Steam streaming could help test the waters.