September 30, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Nreal is announcing a new pair of AR glasses, and Next Up is turning 1.
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Chinese AR startup Nreal is back with a new model of glasses: Nreal Air looks even more like a regular pair of sunglasses, while also improving on its predecessor's optics. Both will be key to getting consumers to buy into AR, Nreal CEO Chi Xu told me this week. "We want people to wear this in public," he said.
The new device is designed to be tethered to a phone for processing and power, just like the company's existing Nreal Light glasses. This allows Nreal to integrate as few components as possible directly into the headgear, bringing the weight of the device down to 77 grams.
Nreal's take on AR is very different from the way Apple and Facebook are approaching the market. While the tech giants are slowly chipping away on hard problems in their labs, and may not release consumer AR glasses for a few more years, Nreal is effectively iterating in the market.
Nreal recently raised $100 million, and now wants to use that money to grow its team and expand into new markets. The company isn't selling its devices in China and the United States yet, and Xu told me that he wants to get all his ducks in a row first. "These are massive countries, and we want to take them very seriously," he said.
Nreal also wants to take some lessons from the mobile phone business, as AR goes global. China's consumer electronics industry initially left that market to companies like Samsung and Apple, and only jumped on board after those two already found success. AR may be an opportunity for China to leapfrog the West. "We want to start early," Xu said. "We want to build the whole supply chain, make sure [it's] ready for rapid market growth."
The massive growth potential of AR is one thing Xu can agree on with Facebook and Apple. "By the year of 2030, we will have a billion people wearing [AR] glasses on a daily basis," he predicted.
"It's a nice marketing platform, but there are more effective ones." — Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos, throwing shade at Apple TV+ (hat tip to Nilay Patel).
"I would far prefer this adventure to go on for 10 or 20 more years. But that's not the way corporate America works." — WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on the prospects of losing his job soon.
Michael Pryor, co-founder of Trello (now a part of Atlassian), explains what he's learned along the way and his advice for other companies that are looking to build a truly collaborative culture that keeps employees feeling connected — from wherever they choose to work.
Time flies if you're having fun, and I've been having such a blast putting together Protocol's Next Up newsletter every week that I almost missed two major milestones: Next Up is turning 1 this month, and we sent out the 50th edition of Next Up two weeks ago.
I say "we" because it has really been a group effort: Next Up couldn't have gotten off the ground, or made its way into inboxes every week, without the help of my editors. And it certainly wouldn't be the same without its dedicated readers, who are regularly chiming in on Twitter and via email, attending our events and helping to grow our audience.
Are you new to the Next Up family? No worries, you can always browse past issues on our website just below the latest issue, or simply check out these five stories to get a sense of what Next Up has been up to over the past 12 months:
Developers, they're just like us! Well, except for the part where they can actually write code, and build apps that let us stream movies to our TVs, music to our phones and VR worlds straight to our faces. But in the end, even the most seasoned programmers still just cross their fingers, knock on wood and hope whatever update they're about to push out won't break everything. Case in point: There are more than 440,000 GitHub commits with the phrase "hope this works," as Nesslabs founder Anne-Laure Le Cunff recently pointed out on Twitter. Also popular: "Fingers crossed" and "omg please." But all's well that ends well: After doing some research myself, I can report that all of those search terms are dwarfed by the more than 22 million commits containing the word "done."
Thanks for reading — see you next week!