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Nreal, a Chinese augmented reality glasses company, rebranded as Xreal. Co-Founder Peng Jin told CNBC this reflects the company’s expanded product range and international expansion.


Chinese augmented reality (AR) glasses maker Nreal on Thursday said it rebranded to Xreal — a name it hopes will encapsulate its expansion into Europe and latest products.

Peng Jin, co-founder of Xreal told CNBC in an interview that the “X” in the new branding reflects the company is “expanding beyond what we thought was possible” and highlights new AR applications. The company, whose products are already sold in the U.S., U.K., China, Japan and South Korea, is planning to launch into European markets in the third quarter of the year.

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Augmented reality refers to technology that allows digital images to be imposed over the real world and represents an area of current investment for the world’s largest tech companies, from Apple to Meta. It is a key technology in the so-called “metaverse.”

Xreal makes two models of a headset that looks like sunglasses — the Xreal Air and Xreal Light — which run the company’s own operating system, called Nebula. Like Apple with iOS on iPhones, developers can make apps for Nebula that people can then use via Nreal headsets.

When people put on their headsets and open an app, they will see a large version of that content in front of their eyes. But Nebula is only available for Android devices, limiting its appeal. On Thursday, Xreal announced a new piece of gear called Xreal Beam, which it describes as an “iPod-shaped device” that can connect, wired or wirelessly, to smartphones, gaming consoles and PCs.

This will allow someone with almost any device to use the headset. One of the key areas Xreal is targeting is gaming. For example, you could connect Xreal Beam to a gaming console, such as PlayStation, and then play a game on a massive virtual screen within your glasses rather than on a physical TV.

Since its commercial launch last year, Xreal said it has sold 150,000 products globally. Jin did not give specific numbers, but said Xreal is looking to “double or triple” its sales in the coming year.

He also revealed the company is looking to raise money. CNBC reported that Xreal fundraised $100 million in 2021 — which at the time valued the company at $700 million — followed by $60 million from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last year. Xreal has some high-profile backers that include Nio Capital, the investment arm of electric carmaker Nio, as well as venture company Sequoia Capital China.

Rising AR and VR competition

Augmented and virtual reality are drawing interest from some of the world’s biggest technology companies. Meta has pinned its future to such innovations, while Apple is reportedly working on its own virtual reality headset and gaming giant Sony last year released its second virtual reality headset called PlayStation VR2.

Jin said the competition will help expand the market.

“When you have companies like Sony or even Apple start investing in the space it brings more attention to this general direction, it will draw more talent,” Jin told CNBC.

But Xreal operates in an interesting space. Its headset can be used with consoles like the PlayStation, so that people can play a game on a huge virtual screen rather than a TV.

This is not a direct competitor to the PSVR 2, which immerses players as if they were in the actual game. But it does pose questions about whether companies may move to block Xreal’s device in the future, a risk not lost on Jin.

“I’m not saying these companies will not one day decide to build their own AR glasses and decide to block us. I m not saying that’s not going to happen. But there’s so much more to gain than just blocking us,” Jin said.

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Top Amazon exec says it’s a ‘myth’ robots steal jobs




Top Amazon exec says it's a 'myth' robots steal jobs

A robot prepares to pick up a tote containing product at the Amazon Robotics fulfillment center on April 12, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

A top Amazon executive told CNBC Thursday that it’s a “myth” that robots and other technologies take jobs away from people.

Stefano La Rovere, director of global robotics, mechatronics, and sustainable packaging at Amazon, said that, rather than replacing jobs, advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies are enhancing people’s roles.

He added that new technology is leading to the creation of entirely new job categories.

“It is a myth that technology and robots take out jobs,” La Rovere told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Thursday.

Amazon says that the introduction of new technologies has enhanced more than 50,000 jobs across its fulfilment centers in Europe.

It's a myth that technology and robots take jobs away, Amazon director of global robotics says

The e-commerce giant says it has installed more than 1,000 new technologies across its European fulfillment center network over the last five years, for an overall investment of more than 700 million euros ($751 million).

“Robots and technology help our employees … by reducing walking distance between assignments, by taking away repetitive motions, or [by] helping them to lift heavy weights,” La Rovere  said.

“In turn, our employees can learn new skills, they can learn new competencies, they can acquire new capabilities that allow them to progress towards their career objectives,” he added.

La Rovere added that, “Over the last years, more than 700 new categories of jobs have been created by the use of technology.”

He cited the example of his own team, the Amazon robotics and AI division, which is focused on bringing automation to Amazon’s vast network of fulfillment centers that are responsible for getting orders packed and ready for delivery to customers.

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China remains crucial for U.S. chipmakers amid rising tensions between the world’s top two economies




China remains crucial for U.S. chipmakers amid rising tensions between the world's top two economies

US-China chip war graphic

Wong Yu Liang | Moment | Getty Images

China remains an essential market for most American chipmakers despite Washington’s efforts to restrict chip sales to the country and amid Beijing’s push for self sufficiency in the semiconductor sector. 

Data from S&P Global showed that U.S. chip giants Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm and Marvell Technology all generate more revenue from China compared with the U.S. 

The U.S. has passed a series of export controls starting in October 2022 aimed at restricting China’s access to advanced chip technology, particularly those used in AI applications.

“China remains an important market for U.S. chipmakers, and the U.S. restrictions on selling advanced AI chips to China have been designed specifically to allow most U.S. firms to continue selling most types of chips to Chinese customers,” Chris Miller, author of “Chip War,” told CNBC.

Used in a wide range of products, from smartphones to electric vehicles, semiconductors have become a top priority for governments globally. 

According to data from tech consultancy Omdia, China consumes nearly 50% of the world’s semiconductors as it is the biggest market for assembling consumer devices. 

U.S. chipmakers, which enjoy technological leadership over Chinese competitors, have been able to tap this demand as the U.S. export curbs are focused on some very specific products.

“There are still plenty of ‘high end’ chips with all types of allowable use cases that are good to go where U.S. based chip companies have the dominant, leading edge,” said William B. Bailey, lead technology, media, and telecommunications analyst at Nasdaq IR Intelligence.

Navigating export curbs 

U.S. chipmakers, even those with a majority of business in the U.S., such as Micron Technology, AMD, and Nvidia, have strived to serve their Chinese clients even in the face of export controls. 

When the first wave of U.S. restrictions came into effect late in 2022, Nvidia and Intel designed modified versions of AI chip products for the Chinese market. 

A year later, the U.S. updated the export rules to tackle these perceived loopholes. But, soon after, it was reported that Nvidia was working on a new chip made for China.

Intel has reportedly continued to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of laptop processor chips to U.S.-sanctioned Chinese telecoms company Huawei, thanks to an export license issued by the Donald Trump administration.

The company did not respond to a request for comment on their plans for the China market.

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AMD has also designed an AI chip for China but will need to apply for an export license after failing to get it past U.S. regulators last month.

Executives of Intel, Qualcomm, and Nvidia, had reportedly been part of a group that planned to lobby Washington against tighter chip restrictions in July last year.

The companies are also members of Semiconductor Industry Association, a major U.S. semiconductor trade organization, which released a statement around the same time requesting an easing of tensions and a halt on further sanctions due to the importance of the Chinese market for domestic chip companies.

Amid a tough policy stance by the U.S., China has also responded in kind. In May last year, chips produced by America’s Micron were banned from critical information infrastructure in China after failing a review by the country’s Cyberspace Administration. 

Micron is constructing a new assembly and test manufacturing facility at an existing site in Xi’an, China, as the country “remains an important market for Micron and the semiconductor industry,” a company spokesperson told CNBC. Production is estimated to start in the second half of 2025, they said.

Market share worries

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The Chinese government is “increasingly focused” on getting its firms to buy locally made chips, Miller said. “Unless foreign companies have a substantial technological advantage over domestic Chinese competitors, they will lose market share in China.” 

However, Phelix Lee, equity analyst at Morningstar, said it does not expect “an overhaul of the supply chain” even as Chinese firms could be innovating legacy chips found in everything from household appliances to medical equipment. 

Legacy chips are typically mature or lower-end semiconductors. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said about 60% of these chips are manufactured by China

According to Brady Wang, associate director at Counterpoint Research, in the AI GPU market segment, American companies such as Nvidia and Intel are estimated to have a technological lead of about three to five years over Chinese competitors.

“We believe China can still build up its local GPU supply chain for specific market segments, but the amount will be limited, and the cost will be much higher,” he added.

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Apple shares just had their best day since last May




Apple shares just had their best day since last May

Apple CEO Tim Cook greets customers as he arrives for the release of the Vision Pro headset at the Apple Store in New York City on Feb. 2, 2024.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Apple shares climbed 4.3% on Thursday to a share price of $175.04. It is Apple’s best day since May 5, 2023.

Apple’s rise came during a strong day for technology stocks, especially those in artificial intelligence, as the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.77%.

Apple shares are down more than 5% so far this year. On Thursday, JPMorgan analysts wrote that sentiment over Apple shares is improving with hedge fund investors, partially due to its recent stock slide.

Despite some negative trends around iPhone sales in China, and recent reports of canceled projects such as its effort to build a car, JPMorgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said investors may be more comfortable with its current valuation after recent losses and the potential to benefit from AI.

The JPMorgan analysts predicted a strong iPhone sales cycle in 2026 due to forthcoming AI features. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently told investors to expect an AI announcement later this year. That is expected to occur during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference event in June.

“Hedge fund investors are increasingly warming up to the opportunity of the AI upgrade cycle, but the uncertainty still pertains to whether the upgrade cycle starts with iPhone 16 in September 2024 or iPhone 17 in September 2025,” Chatterjee wrote.

Separately, Apple is also preparing new Mac laptops and desktops with next-generation “M4 chips” that emphasize AI, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg. Apple declined to comment on the report. The current generation of Apple’s chips is called M3.

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