On Wednesday, e-commerce giant Alibaba led a $60 million investment in Augmented Reality glasses maker Nreal. The investment signals that Chinese technology companies want in on the metaverse. The announcement was made by AR glasses maker Nreal and the company confirmed that the $60 million funding will be channelled into investing in research and development as well as boosting its expansion into new markets before the end of the year. The company which has been selling its products in quite a handful of countries including the US, Spain, South Korea and Japan, is looking at venturing into China this year.
With the increasing adoption of the metaverse comes the demand for “enablers” for the metaverse. Augmented reality technology is an important enabler for the metaverse – the technology imposes digital images over the real world. People need technologies such as AR glasses to access the metaverse. Nreal offers two glass products with which people can access the metaverse – the Light and the Air variants. With these, people can access Augmented Reality applications in the metaverse such as games, movies, etc.
The metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. In futurism and science fiction, it is often described as a hypothetical iteration of the internet as a single, universal virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets, Wikipedia explains.
Other top Chinese technology firms apart from Alibaba are also trying to get their hands on the metaverse. Leading Chinese multinational companies such as Tencent also want to leverage the opportunities the metaverse is presenting.
Nreal counts a handful of high-profile investors backing its business. Its $100 million funding round which took place last year in September saw the participation of backers such as Nio Capital (electric car maker Nio’s investment arm), Sequoia Capital China, Chinese short video platform Kuaishou, Chinese streaming service iQiyi, and now Alibaba.
Alibaba’s investment in Nreal comes amid increased scrutiny on tech companies in China, and could be a partnership for the companies as Alibaba has, in the past shown interest in Augmented Reality technology.