My experience trying to use Nebula for real

Today I experimented - if I were to really use the NReal Light as Smart Glasses, how well would it work in its current state? How useful would it really be?

So here’s what I did: At my work-from-home workstation, I put my work calendar above the monitor and work mail (Gmail) to the side, so any time I’m walking by the computer, I can see the important information. And while sitting there, I can just look up to see the calendar, look to the side to see email.

But it’s the weekend, so I then went to my couch in front of my TV. I turned off the TV, and added a video player directly on the 55" TV screen (which made it a good black video background), sized as closely to the TV size as possible. It was very realistic as a TV picture. I could use YouTube, or I could put a Google Remote Desktop to my PC playing Netflix or whatever videos in FireFox (not ideal, but usable). I put a Discord chat window above the TV - I use that to chat with my friends. I made the window the same size as the TV, it was nice and readable. Then off to the side I put just a web browser with Google, so I could browse while watching TV (for example, so I could type in here).

When it works, it works great! It really shows the potential of AR/MR as Smart Glasses. Even just this usage would be a great use - I liked having a video playing at full size and being able to look up to see what my friends chatted in Discord and respond, and I could really see having my work calendar always visible near my workstation being useful. I would love to have these things always working - I have prescription lenses for the NReal Light being set up by my optometrist, so in theory I could use them on a daily basis, at home at least. However, the problems I ran into made it enough of a pain that I won’t in the future make full use of the glasses for this purpose, not in Nebula’s current state.

All browser windows would stop working
This was the biggest problem I had - if I wanted to do something outside of the MR space, for example connect a Bluetooth device, or check email, when I returned to the MR space using the Android multitasking button, all the browser windows would not only be repositioned, they would be blank, and reloading the web page or pressing the back/forward buttons wouldn’t do anything. I had to close the browser windows and open new ones for every window I had set up. The last time this happened, I just gave up and came here to report my results.

No way to save the window layout
Once I had a layout I liked, I couldn’t save it, so next time I’d have to open each web app one by one, and move and resize it as desired. Which was compounded by the previous issue - if I could have just reloaded the layout, I wouldn’t have minded too much having the browser windows stop working. This would also help with the limit of 5 open windows at a time - I could have a work-from-home setup, a couch-video setup, etc.

I understand that the NReal Light may not recognize the environment layout so wouldn’t be able to restore exact positions, but one thing they could do is at least save the relative positions/sizes of each window, and its current URL, and when you load a layout, have the user rotate the entire layout until it matches. Like, if I save the layout while sitting on my couch, then when I sit back down in the same spot and load the layout, I could rotate it so the video window was directly on my TV and that would place all the other windows where I originally had them.

Or at least load up all the web pages I had open in a grid format for me to place where I want - not ideal, but it would still save a lot of time/annoyance completely recreating a layout myself.

Built-in speakers were too quiet
Even with the volume maxed-out in the MR menu, the videos were way too quiet using the NReal’s built-in speakers. I couldn’t actually understand video dialogue unless I was listening very carefully for it. This was one of the reasons I left the MR space - to connect Bluetooth earbuds to wear at the same time as the glasses.

Native 2D Android apps aren’t usable
Since 2D apps aren’t usable at all in the US right now regardless of phone/provider, I had to use web apps for everything. Which is doable for much of what I want to do, but not ideal, and some things aren’t usable at all that way. For example, my personal email is not through a web mail provider, I use a mail app for it from the Google Play store, so I couldn’t access my email at all in MR. And switching to the mail app on the phone to see a new mail that arrived would cause the first problem, making all the MR browser windows stop working. Or Discord really wanted me to use the native app, it wouldn’t show the button for using it in the browser, I had to go there on another device, press the button, and see what URL popped up so I could manually enter that (though then I could bookmark that page for the MR menu). And of course apps like YouTube work better through the native app than through the web page.

I had to leave the phone on and ready for input
Minor issue, but I would like to have been able to click in the Discord text-entry bar to bring focus to it for my bluetooth keyboard, start a video playing, and then put my phone to sleep. This would have saved battery life and also made it so I wouldn’t accidentally touch the screen and have something happen. I would be a passive consumer of content, aside from typing in Discord.

Some stats: USA, Verizon, Samsung Galaxy S20 5G FE
Nebula v2.02.00.2111081602, NReal Light retail (purchased from Verizon)


Update: All browser windows no longer stop working

The new version of Nebula seems to have fixed one of my biggest problems! Where I would leave Nebula (to do something like enable Bluetooth audio), then return to it and find the browser windows not working at all. They still don’t quite keep the same position they were at before, but at least they return to functionality now. So the YouTube video I was watching (or whatever) would still be there and I could continue where I left off.