At Reliance’s RIL 43rd AGM (Annual General Meeting), the company announced the upcoming release of its own in-house designed MR glasses, called the Jio Glass. With 387.5 million subscribers, Reliance Jio is one of the world’s leading operators and the number one operator in India. It was the first in the world to launch a 4G LTE-only network, scaling it out to become the biggest operator in India in only 3 years (adding 90 million new subscribers in 2019 alone). Over the last 3 months it has raised $20 billion from the likes of Facebook, Google, Intel, Qualcomm and a slew of private equity firms, including KKR, Silver Lake and TPG. At the 43rd AGM, Reliance (Jio’s Parent company) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani stated that the company aims to hit 500 million subscribers in the next 3 years, driven heavily by its 4G base network, upcoming 5G network and new use cases for 5G. We cover some of this in last week’s Moor Insights & Strategy G2 on 5G podcast. Let’s take a closer look at the newly announced MR glasses.
One of Reliance Jio’s subsidiaries is another India-based company called Tesseract, who specializes in creating XR experiences and hardware. Tesseract originally spun out of MIT’s Media Lab, with the ambition of democratizing AR and VR. Though XR glasses are an unusual undertaking for a network operator such as Jio, the company tends to do things its own way. The Jio Glass can also thank Qualcomm’s XR Viewer Program, which has gained quite a bit of traction with operators around the globe as of late. This program seeks to guarantee interoperability between different XR glasses and smartphones via a certification process. Neither Tesseract or Qualcomm have announced any official partnerships behind the Jio Glass yet. That said, there is almost a 100% certainty that Jio and Tesseract will power their headset with smartphones that use Snapdragon chips, placing them squarely within this ecosystem. I expect that the Jio Glass will very likely offer multi-device compatibility for smartphones with properly certified processors and some kind of 5G connection.
The Jio Glass is only a 75-gram XR viewer, meaning that it must connect to your smartphone, via USB-C cable, in order to gain access to graphics processing and wireless connectivity. Operators like Jio are excited about this application of XR because it enables customers to utilize their future 5G networks for more immersive use cases, giving them yet another potential hub for content. The Jio Glass also has built-in spatial audio, so headphones are purportedly not necessary (though details on how this works are light). Tesseract claims that the Jio Glass will be able to play all audio formats, which I assume means all the spatial audio formats in existence today.
Tesseract also announced it has built 25 XR applications spanning entertainment, learning, gaming, shopping, and productivity. Jio already has a track record of building its own applications for use within the Jio network, so this makes sense. It gives Jio more control of the user experience as well as richer data on user application usage, which will help the company improve and modify the network to optimize for those applications. While we do not have details on most of these applications, Jio shared details on a few that may be especially useful in today’s COVID-19 climate. The JioMeet Mixed Reality Platform enables both 2D and 3D meetings for collaboration, well suited for those still working remotely. Another application that Jio is working on focuses on providing teachers with a more immersive and engaging remote learning experience for their students.
Pricing and availability are still quite unknown. Tesseract and Jio have shared images of the new glasses, and I expect we will see them being paired with 5G phones sometime after the company launches its 5G network in 2021. While that’s my educated guess, I do believe that Jio and Tesseract’s vision could be realized over 4G. It is just much more viable as a 5G product. We also still don’t know the headset’s resolution, FoV or whether it will have any sort of controllers. That said, there is a huge probability that the Jio Glass will be available for a very affordable price, especially since the company has the benefit of scale. With a customer base of approximately 385 million, Jio could potentially produce millions of these glasses and do it profitably. We will have to wait and see—hopefully, we’ll get more details from Tesseract or Jio soon.