Augmented reality headsets have been around for years, but none of the market players have really broken out of the tech demographic and broken into the mainstream. An AR startup hopes to change that by partnering with a fashion eyewear brand.
UnrealA well-funded Chinese maker of AR headsets that has been aggressively expanding globally said on Friday it has raised $15 million from a Korean sunglasses brand Gentle monsterthe parent company of IICOMBINED.
Investments that appeared just five months after him $60 million Series C expansionincreasing total revenue to $240 million since inception in 2017.
The fresh capital will allow Nreal to accelerate its global expansion and double the company’s US consumer business, the company said.
Neither Nreal nor Gentle Monster have said much about how they might work together, but it’s almost certain that the infusion of capital from a single investor marks a step toward a strategic partnership. It’s no surprise that Nreal’s glasses, which have strived to be fashionable and lightweight since the beginning, will find their way onto Gentle Master’s shelves global retail stores ever.
Indeed, Nreal co-founder Peng Jin said the firm’s goal for the next twelve months is to “grow and reach more audiences and actively expand the adoption of AR technology, starting with our latest AR glasses, Nreal Air.”
Nreal has already established a global distribution network, most of which is through it corporate partners such as Qualcomm and LG, in countries such as the US, UK, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Germany. It debuted in China, where it is based, in August.
Demand for Nreal is currently highest in the US, Japan and Korea, although the company expects China to soon become one of its top markets.
Earlier this week, Nreal unveiled a number of its products, including AR glasses such as Nreal Air and Nreal X (Chinese version), and an AR adapter for Apple devices in the domestic market.
“Fashion and design will be important aspects in the future development of augmented reality glasses as we continue to expand the consumer base of the sector,” Jin said. “So having Gentle Monster as our investor will open up exciting opportunities not only for Nreal, but for the broader AR industry as a whole.”
Gentle Monster, which hit China in 2016 in partnership with Huawei in 2019 to produce smart glasses, opened its 17th store in Beijing in early August for further expansion in China.
“This investment is very exciting to combine and explore the frontier of fashion and technology,” said Gentle Monster co-founder and IICOMBINED CEO Hankook Kim. “We will use the strengths of both sides and make joint efforts to create more opportunities.”