Extended Reality or XR is often mistaken for a new form of immersive technology. That is in part thanks to our nature of acquiring selective knowledge. We all know what augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is. We see and use them on almost a daily basis with our Snapchat or Instagram filters or our VR gaming gear. So it is natural to assume that extended reality or XR is a new form of immersive technology. But the reality is quite different.
What is XR Anyway?
XR or extended reality is a new term that is meant to act as an umbrella for all immersive technologies. That includes both the ones we use today as well as new ones that may emerge as technology advances. For now, XR is an emerging, cover-all term for these technologies, in the same way, Cox is a coverall term for plans like the Cox Gigablast package. As an accepted terminology, XR is slowly beginning to become popular in the mainstream. The industry is projected to grow by almost 800 percent by 2022, reaching a market capitalization of over $200 billion.
Why The Term “Extended Reality”?
Immersive technologies are a way to extend the reality we live in. Think for a minute about the Pokemon Go craze a few years ago, that brought AR forcefully into the mainstream. Or think how popular AR filters became, even though the technology was by any measure still in its infancy. Think of how VR gaming enhances the entire gaming experience with fully-immersive gameplay. Of course, these technologies do have their limitations. We don’t have X-Men style training rooms with destructive environments yet. But we might as well. The fact is that immersive technologies are more than just a novelty. That they can build on reality to create new elements offers many exciting new possibilities. This ability to “extend” the reality is what gives XR technologies their new parent name.
Types of XR Available Today
XR refers to immersive technology that either blend the virtual and real-world or create a new one. There are three types of XR in use today. They include the following:
Augmented reality technology overlays features and elements of the real world. This can include images, text, information, or even moving elements. This creates an “augmented” experience. One where you are seeing things that aren’t physically there. AR usually requires you to view the real world through a medium that can overlay elements on it. That could mean your smartphone or tablet camera, a screen, or even special AR glasses.
The AR experience does not isolate the user from the real world. It allows them to interact with the virtual elements while still keeping in tune with the physical world surrounding it. This is why Snapchat filters stay on your face when you move it. It is also how Pokemon Go allowed you to capture digital creatures.
Virtual reality offers a very different experience from AR. It uses special technology like VR headsets to create a fully immersive experience in a simulated world. Essentially, VR creates a new form of reality, that is different from the physical one. VR requires a head-mounted display or headset to allow you to get a 360-degree view of this virtual environment. VR can be so immersive that it tricks your brain into accepting the virtual world. You could be having the most unlikely experience, like walking the surface of Mars, or fighting hordes of zombies, and you’ll find yourself reacting to it. VR isn’t limited to just gaming either. It also has enormous applications in the military, healthcare, and engineering.
Mixed reality is the newest form of immersive technology. It creates a space where physical and digital objects can co-exist and interact in real-time. It is a hybrid of both AR and VR, but at the same time. Requires a lot more processing power than either of them. It can allow you to place digital objects in a physical space and interact with them in various ways. MR is finding promising use cases in the business world to solve problems and support various business functions.
Technology that does not offer real value rarely makes it onto the big stage. Fortunately, XR has a large number of applications. From retail to industry, XR has many use cases that can help businesses improve their operations. It has also several uses in training processes, including in high-risk situations that involve expensive equipment or human lives. Suffice it to say, as XR continues to grow in popularity, so does its use in the mainstream. Will we be using XR instead of the Cox Customer service number to interact with a service rep? Will we be taking virtual, immersive vacations? Only time will tell.