Peng Jin, also known as PJ, is the co-founder and head of commercialization and strategy at Nreal. Since graduating from New York University, he has served as the managing partner of CEC Capital, and is a founding partner of Keytone Ventures. Following his passion for innovation, PJ has actively participated in the incubation of several technology companies throughout his career.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Can you tell us why Nreal was founded, and what your initial goals were?

My partner Chi Xu and I first met in 2015, when Microsoft introduced HoloLens, their first AR headset. The [HoloLens] experience was similar to that of opening up my first webpage — you sort of just knew that things were going to be different. We agreed that AR held great promise for the future, but it wouldn’t look like the HoloLens — this super bulky, heavy device. In 2017, we decided to found a company that built consumer-grade AR devices. In my mind, AR would be the next big trend in the next three to four decades, in a similar way the computer and the internet was.

Much has changed since 2017. How has the AR industry changed since then? 

When people say that a lot has changed, it means two different things for two different groups of people. For people whose skin is in the game, who are actually building the technology, the entire industry has fast-forwarded. For investors, whose attention is driven by landmark transactions, they have a different perspective. If financing slows down, it creates the misperception that the industry is slowing down, which is not the case.

The biggest change over the past three- to five-year time frame in the AR industry is that Nreal announced our first product, the Nreal Light. Prior to that, people associated AR glasses with HoloLens and Magic Leap: amazing, but expensive and bulky. The Nreal Light — light, portable, and inexpensive — took the whole industry by surprise. We were also the first company to bring AR glasses to mobile phones. HoloLens and Magic Leap are independent systems, similar to VR [virtual reality]. Whereas once AR glasses are connected to mobile phones, they are a completely new creature. You can treat them as enabling devices that help you elevate existing devices.

Nreal is now honing in on the gaming industry. Can you explain why? What other industries are you exploring? 

Many people are waiting for one killer app to bring AR technologies to the mainstream, but in reality, major technological shifts emerge gradually into people’s everyday lives. I take a similar approach to introducing AR tech to the world.

Our first step is to introduce AR as an upgrade to your existing display experience. Gaming becomes a natural choice because people spend so much time on their screens, and an upgrade can really elevate their gaming experience. Instead of focusing on a small screen, you can look at a gigantic 200-inch display screen in space, be sitting on a train or on a flight, and no longer be limited by physical constraints. We also have in mind other consumer segments. For example, people who use their personal computers. Laptop owners’ biggest wish has been to have the largest possible screen on the smallest possible computer. With our glasses, that is a reality.

How large is Nreal’s market and which companies are your biggest competitors? What makes Nreal unique? 

We sold close to 100,000 units last year over a three- to four-month time frame. Let’s say there are 3 billion personal computers installed around the world — how many of these people want to try a different display experience? Let’s say one of a 1,000 want to be early adopters to experience things — apply that to a 3 billion install base, that’s 3 million units. 

Our competitors are monitors, TV screens, projectors, but not direct competitors, because we represent an entirely different experience. We’re not competing with VR goggles, because they offer something different: a unique, immersive experience. If you want that, there’s no substitute. But if you want something that can blend into your everyday life and existing habits, the Nreal glasses are the way to go.

What are Nreal’s next steps and plans for the future?

While we’re trying to bring people a superior display option, we’re investing time and effort into other core technologies around our AR glasses, like working on the next generation of our optic engine. We want to introduce more easy-to-use AR experiences, push out several AR features that allow people to understand what AR feels like, and help accomplish certain tasks.