With technical flaws and lack of ecology, how far can Thunderbird innovate?

Author | Edited by Zhang Yu | Yang Bocheng

On January 6, the 2023 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2023) officially kicked off in Las Vegas, USA. As a world-class consumer electronics event, CES2023 is an important stage for consumer electronics manufacturers in various fields to show off their skills , For example, Thunderbird Innovation, known as one of the AR “Four Tigers”, launched a new generation of binocular full-color MicroLED light waveguide AR glasses RayNeo X2 (Thunderbird X2) at CES 2023.

In terms of appearance, Thunderbird X2 adopts a simple wireless integrated design, which is not much different from ordinary glasses for daily use; in terms of performance, Thunderbird X2 is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 computing power platform; in terms of functions, Thunderbird X2 has been able to realize functions such as English learning, intelligent translation, real-time navigation, information reminder, quick photo, video and time-lapse photography.

It is reported that Thunderbird X2 will be mass-produced and launched in the first half of 2023. From the beginning of 2023, TCL Electronics, the parent company of Thunderbird Innovation, will provide relevant development kits to developers in specific regions, and then launch commercial releases.

Since the second half of 2022, the AR field, which has been silent for many years, has become noisy again. Among them, the consumer-grade AR glasses track has the fastest growth. AR glasses, the track as a whole showed an explosive trend.

Starting from CES 2023, the competition on the consumer-grade AR glasses track in 2023 has officially sounded the horn. 01.

Thunderbird Innovation Still Facing Difficulties

Sales of consumer-grade AR glasses in the Chinese market are on the rise. According to the data analyzed by Analysys, the sales of consumer-grade AR glasses in China reached tens of thousands of units in the third quarter. Nreal occupies the first place with a market share of 34.5%, while Thunderbird and Rokid rank second and third with 28.6% and 24.4% respectively.

Although its market share in China ranks second, Thunderbird still faces many difficulties.

On the one hand, the current content ecology of consumer-grade AR glasses is not rich enough, far from being comparable to that of smartphones, and there has never been a hit product on the application side. Under this predicament, the development direction of AR glasses is first Borrowing the content ecology of smartphones, the consequence is that although AR glasses make up for the shortcomings of the content ecology, they eventually become accessories for smartphones.

Thunderbird innovation cannot escape the same fate. Taking Thunderbird X2 as an example, it can provide consumers with functions such as immersive English learning, intelligent translation, real-time navigation, information reminder, and quick photo taking. Objectively speaking, such functions are completely It can be realized through smartphones. If consumer-grade AR glasses have similar functions to smartphones or are not irreplaceable, then consumers seem to have no need to buy expensive consumer-grade AR glasses.

At the same time, due to the lack of content ecology, consumer-grade AR glasses are not rigid enough in daily life, and it is not enough for consumers to form a stable usage habit, which hinders the popularization of consumer-grade AR glasses to a certain extent.

On the other hand, due to technical difficulties, mass production process and other limitations, the current hardware level of the entire consumer AR glasses industry is still unable to achieve large-scale commercialization, power consumption, heat generation, weight, battery life, etc. The degree is still far. Especially at the level of technical difficulties, due to the need to optimize speech recognition technology, image recognition technology, augmented reality technology, etc., it has seriously affected human-computer interaction, making consumers unwilling to pay for consumer-grade AR glasses.

In addition, small field of view, poor color uniformity, high price, poor battery life, and insufficient application scenarios are also difficulties that consumer-grade AR smart glasses have to face in the development process. product. 02.

Beneficiaries of the Metaverse?

At CES 2023, consumer-grade AR glasses led by Thunderbird X2 sparked heated discussions in the industry. In fact, it is not the first time that consumer-grade AR glasses have become the focus.

In April 2012, Google released the consumer-grade AR glasses Google Glass (Google Project Glass), which has the same functions as a smartphone, and can be controlled by voice to take pictures, video calls, process text messages and emails, etc. Subsequently, technology giants such as Microsoft and Sony successively entered the consumer-grade AR glasses track.

However, Google finally stopped the Google Glass project in January 2015. The reasons point to two aspects: one is the huge R&D cost; the other is the lack of applications that can demonstrate the potential of consumer-grade AR glasses. At the same time, due to dizziness, delay After the pain points are difficult to solve, consumer-grade AR glasses will eventually fall silent.

However, since 2021, the popularity of the metaverse has continued to rise, and consumer-grade AR glasses, one of the entrances, have received increasing attention. The “China Metaverse Development Report (2022)” shows that the current output value of the upstream and downstream industries of China’s Metaverse exceeds 400 billion yuan, mainly reflected in game entertainment, VR and AR hardware, etc. In the next five years, the domestic Metaverse market itself will be at least will exceed the 200 billion yuan mark.

The Metaverse is considered to be one of the most valuable industries in the future, and it is also an important outlet that is most likely to bring about huge changes after the Internet. As the closest field to the Metaverse, consumer-grade AR glasses are also considered to have a huge potential. Therefore, it has attracted many entrants. For example, OPPO released OPPO Air Glass, which provides various interactive services for consumers; Xiaomi launched consumer-grade AR glasses mainly for taking pictures; Thunderbird Innovation and others have launched consumer-grade AR glasses; Apple has also been reported to be developing AR glasses, and the new AR glasses are expected to be available in 2024.

Can Thunderbird Innovation take advantage of the momentum of the Metaverse?

What cannot be ignored is that the metaverse is still in its infancy at this stage, and the further deepening and technological precipitation of various industries for online, digital, and virtualization are in the early stages and there are certain technical bottlenecks. According to Deloitte research and analysis, the earliest start from 2031 , the metaverse of independent industries can start to gradually open up data and standards, and achieve a mature integration stage of similarity and integration.

“In 2023, although consumer-grade AR glasses still have shortcomings in human-computer interaction, it is an important time node to seize the opportunity of the metaverse.” A person in the VR/AR industry told DoNews (ID: ilovedonews), “The sales results show that the consumer-grade AR glasses track has fully set sail. In the future, as the basic conditions for building the metaverse are further improved, the demand for consumer-grade AR glasses will also increase significantly, and it is expected to usher in a new round of rapid development. .”03.

When did Thunderbird innovate?

According to statistics from the China Business Industry Research Institute, in the first half of 2022, investment and financing in the VR/AR field received a total of 38 financings, with a total financing amount of 3.632 billion yuan. Investment enthusiasm is increasing.

With consumer-grade AR glasses becoming popular again, when will Thunderbird’s innovation explode?

Thunderbird Innovation CEO Li Hongwei predicts that consumer-grade AR glasses will go through three stages: the early market (2022-2025), which can also be called the preparation period. The essence and core capability of this stage is hardware equipment, which can replace some mobile phone scenarios ; In the mainstream market (2025-2028), the performance of the hardware meets the requirements of killer applications and enters the mass user market; the ecological explosion stage (after 2028), this stage constitutes a barrier to the positive ecological cycle.

Thunderbird Innovation is ambitious. If Li Hongwei’s plan is followed, Thunderbird Innovation will carry out product changes at a rate of two generations per year, and hopes to launch a “revolutionary product” in 2024.

“The advent of the AR era is unquestionable. We hope to work with industry partners to accelerate its arrival. We hope that in three to five years, we will be able to provide global users with AR products beyond what everyone imagines now, and help our users in the future. Everything is possible in a world where reality and virtuality merge.” Li Hongwei said.

However, it is not easy for Thunderbird to achieve a breakthrough. At present, mobile phone manufacturers such as OPPO, Huawei, and Xiaomi have entered the field of consumer-grade AR glasses. Giants such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are also eyeing. In addition, Nreal’s consumer-grade AR The sales volume of glasses ranks first in the world, and it is also the world’s first brand of consumer-grade AR glasses that has exceeded 100,000 units in mass production. In contrast, Thunderbird is not as innovative as its competitors in terms of brand influence or size.

For Falcon Innovation, there are at least two shortcomings that need to be improved: one is to fill in the missing content ecology. In simple terms, it is whether Falcon Innovation can explore more practical and unique functions, and whether A variety of applications have been developed; the second is the maturity of relevant core technologies and the large-scale implementation of application scenarios. The maturity of core technologies will further improve user experience, reduce equipment costs, and create basic conditions for the large-scale popularization of consumer-grade AR glasses.

The release of Thunderbird X2 means that Thunderbird innovation has taken a big step forward in the consumer-grade AR glasses track, but whether it can usher in a moment of explosion remains to be verified. After all, it is difficult to polish a phenomenal product. .

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