Big bet on AR glasses maker Nreal, Ali presses the Metaverse accelerator button

In the past, Byte spent 9 billion yuan to acquire Pico, a domestic head VR equipment manufacturer. Later, Baidu recently launched the Metaverse social APP “Xi Rong”. The increase of big manufacturers has undoubtedly pushed the Metaverse track to the commanding heights.

Manufacturers competing for the Metaverse is nothing new.

In the past, Byte spent 9 billion yuan to acquire Pico, a domestic head VR equipment manufacturer. Later, Baidu recently launched the Metaverse social APP “Xi Rong”. The increase of big manufacturers has undoubtedly pushed the Metaverse track to the commanding heights.

And Ali’s recent move is also worthy of attention.

Recently, the world’s leading AR technology company Nreal announced the completion of a $60 million C+ round of financing, led by Alibaba. Ali’s intention to hold hands with nreal is already obvious, but the track variables behind it may still be worth talking about.

AR is the key to nreal’s exploration of the Metaverse

When the Metaverse was born, Nreal was one of many innovative companies working to turn the AR imagination into reality.

Big bet on AR glasses maker Nreal, Ali presses the Metaverse accelerator button

Nreal company named Tairuo Technology, founded in 2017, is a research and development company of MR smart glasses.According to the data, Nreal started as a mixed reality company in China, mainly focusing on the research and development of mixed reality technology and the production of AR terminal glasses. According to Nreal’s official website, using AR technology, enhanced digital images can be superimposed on the real world. Based on this, users can wear Nreal’s two glasses products, Light or Air, to access AR applications such as games or movies.

For now, both AR and its cousin VR are hyped by the rise of the Metaverse concept. And AR is also seen as a key technology in the so-called Metaverse.

The simple difference is that AR glasses are transparent, allowing you to see both the real world and the virtual image superimposed on it, while VR glasses are opaque, only showing the virtual world and completely blocking the physical world.

While the Metaverse doesn’t yet have a precise official definition, it’s mostly related to virtual worlds in which people might work and play, and AR might be a closer way to access the Metaverse.

As Xu Chi, founder and CEO of Nreal, said, the mobile Internet based on mobile phones has limitations, and the “spatial Internet” will bring about changes in the dimension of interaction, “almost seamless” with the Metaverse. Behind this ecosystem, whether it is content or social networking, requires a core hardware carrier.

Perhaps because of this, Nreal’s products are full of imagination, with its back facing the ocean of the Metaverse.

Nreal has also been committed to creating the ultimate AR experience through AR products, that is, mapping data and information into real scenes, and completing seamless playback in real scenes. To enrich the content experience, Nreal has formed a partnership with streaming service provider Cinedigm. Cinedigm is able to provide original content and channels to enhance the appeal of Nreal Light. Users can watch their shows on one virtual HD screen while multitasking on up to two adjacent virtual screens.

Thanks to the above-mentioned Nreal’s preemptive position in the AR track, Nreal’s commercialization in the field of consumer AR is progressing rapidly.

. In November 2021, Nreal and Migu announced a strategic cooperation to jointly promote the ecological development of 5G+AR content;

. In December 2021, Nreal and NIO released the AR glasses for car sharing, creating a new entertainment experience in the smart cockpit;

. In February 2022, Nreal launched the new “Nreal Air” AR glasses in Japan jointly with two major operators, Docomo and KDDI, which are widely praised and sought after by the market. Many of its products have been launched in Japan, South Korea, the United States and many countries in Europe, and it plans to expand the Chinese market this year.

On the whole, Nreal is a relatively “hard-core” AR company, and behind this may be the improvement of the communication infrastructure in the 5G era, which has laid a solid foundation for the transformation of terminal equipment and provided a layer of assistance, which also makes AR The industry has the opportunity to create leading brands for global consumers.

With the continuous development of technology, Metaverse may provide the expansion of more interactive scenarios, which is also based on the continuous development of the concept of the Metaverse, making many Metaverse products more diversified. After the new forces, how much variable will this bring to Ali?


In recent years, domestic Internet giants have been investing in the Metaverse.

There was a temporary setback for “Robulus”, which was distributed by Tencent. The popularity of “Roblox” in foreign countries is unparalleled. “Roblox” has more than 100 million monthly active players around the world, and is widely regarded by the industry as the most Metaverse game. Internet products, and “Roblox” also carries the expectations of the Tencent Card Bit Universe. However, after just three months of operation, “Robleth” stopped registration, and it is unknown when it will resume.

And Ali followed closely. Previously, Ali chose to cut into the Metaverse from the hardware dimension. In February 2016, Alibaba led an investment in Magic Leap. Magic Leap was one of the first players to enter AR (augmented reality) glasses.

But Magic Leap failed to achieve the “magic leap.” In 2018, Magic Leap released its first product, which cost a whopping $2,300. The founder originally planned to sell 1 million units in the first year of listing, but only about 6,000 units were sold in half a year.

Facing the huge gap, investors began to lose confidence, and Magic Leap’s valuation shrank sharply from $6.4 billion in 2019 to $450 million in September 2020, a drop of more than 90%.

Ali not only recorded huge investment losses, but also paid a considerable opportunity cost.

Based on the above experience, this also shows that Ali and Tencent won the Metaverse sector not smoothly. The gameplay of letting big factories “buy” Metaverse tickets is questioned. They began to turn inward, to find the gold nuggets of the Metaverse on their own.

At the 2021 Yunqi Conference at the end of October, Ali announced the establishment of an XR laboratory, which mainly conducts AR and VR-related technical research. This laboratory will become the bridgehead for Ali to enter the Metaverse.

Tan Ping, head of XR Lab, gave a speech around the Metaverse. He said that in the future, in the era of VR and AR, it is very likely that each of us will have a virtual avatar. Through virtual avatars, we can communicate face-to-face in the virtual world. Under such a setting, it is very possible to socialize and e-commerce. , many applications will change.

From this description, Ali’s vision is consistent with the idea of ​​the founder of Nreal above. Future virtual e-commerce application scenarios will require a carrier, and Nreal has undoubtedly become one of the keys for Ali to open the Metaverse.

In addition, for Ali, it is also one of the auxiliary means to serve its e-commerce business, committed to the construction of the Metaverse, and augmented AR glasses also provide new variables for Ali’s e-commerce.

At present, all of Alibaba’s industrial layouts revolve around Alibaba’s e-commerce. Whether it is investing in film and television, video, or Weibo, etc., in the final analysis, it is still to “drain traffic” to e-commerce platforms. Overseas, in addition to investing in e-commerce platforms, Ali has also invested in distribution service providers, application search engines, and e-commerce service providers, all of which revolve around e-commerce, with a very clear idea.

Big bet on AR glasses maker Nreal, Ali presses the Metaverse accelerator button

With the addition of nreal, this can play a huge role in Alibaba’s e-commerce, such as Tmall holographic store, virtual home improvement, etc.

From Nreal’s point of view, how to achieve from 1 to 100 is still an important challenge. Lack of resources and channels, it is actually difficult to truly grow by itself, and even if there is, it will take longer. If nreal wants to rely on AR to build the core platform of the Metaverse, it means that it needs to invest billions of dollars or more every year, and it needs to continue to invest for 10 to 20 years.

Then, after obtaining Ali’s investment, at least you can get more traffic help. Take Byte’s acquisition of Pico, a leading domestic VR manufacturer, as an example. With the support of ByteDance’s traffic, Pico’s new products have obtained a lot of promotion resources on platforms such as Douyin, Volcano Video, and Today’s Toutiao. During the Spring Festival, many stars brought “2022 Entries such as “Treasure New Year’s Goods” and “Play VR to choose Pico” rushed to the hot search on Douyin, gaining nearly 1 billion views.

From this logic, Alibaba’s investment in Nreal is actually a “win-win”.

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