What is XR (Extended Reality) and What it isn’t

Many people are not familiar with XR (Extended Reality) the way they are with AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). As far back as 2010, Palmer Luckey created the first VR headset prototype, a development that kick-started the excitement around the technology.

Before the buzz around VR, the innovation had never really taken shape even though it’s been around as far back as the 1950s. AR has been in the offing for several decades as well. But today, a good number of big tech names such as Google, Sony, Facebook, HTC, and numerous others have embraced these technologies. GMetri is making its mark in the integration of AR and VR innovations in different sectors.

The recent buzz for VR and AR and the emergence of Mixed Reality (MR) are what popularized XR. For those new to XR, it is normal to imagine that it is one of these “other” realities. However, XR is not a concept or technology on its own. On the contrary, it is used as a collective reference for VR, AR, and MR. The “X” in the acronym is a variable that could represent any letter. It also means that reality is an extension of the real world.

Assuming a new reality that is different from VR, AR, and MR, it will also fall under the XR umbrella. In other words, sometimes when XR is mentioned, it could be VR, AR, MR, or all three as a collective. The implication of this is that the term’s meaning is dependent on context.

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR refers to the use of computer technology to create a simulated three-dimensional environment that reflects some form of reality through electronic devices. The common device used to create VR is a particular goggle that comes with a screen fitted with special sensors. These goggles are sometimes referred to as Head-mounted Devices (HDM). This is different from the traditional user interface because it situates the user right within the experience.

One can therefore refer to the use of VR as experiential without having to leave the reality. The interesting thing about VR is that all the senses including touch, vision, hearing, smell, and taste can be simulated. VR is already being used in the following industries tourism, healthcare, gambling, learning and development, entertainment, real estate, and architecture to mention a few.

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR has similarities with VR but not the same thing. Unlike VR, the reality is not recreated.  On the contrary, AR enhances parts of a user’s experience using technology. In other words, AR is a combination of virtual and real life.

For instance, a little over a year ago, Gucci introduced an AR feature to its app that allows potential shoppers to try on its sneakers. All the shoppers have to do is point their phones down towards their feet. The technology simulates the shoes on their feet, helping the shoppers to make a quick decision. Unlike VR that requires the use of a specialized goggle or headwear, AR is mostly operational through mobile phones or similar devices. Top guns and spirited startups in industries such as education, manufacturing, gaming, retail, healthcare, automotive and military have started to integrate AR into their activities. GMetri’s VR and AR interventions in HR are also good reference points.

Mixed Reality (MR)

MR refers to a blending of some aspects of VR and AR to create a new user experience. What this means is a creation of a virtual world that requires users to have some form of physical involvement in the real world.

With MR, you have one leg in the real world and the other in the virtual world. Through sensing and imaging technologies, a user moves parts of their bodies to interact with items in the virtual world. This technology is one of the proofs that a fusion of computers and humans for the desired solution is no longer in the distant future. MR is therefore a lot more interactive than VR and AR.

One good illustration for MR is Microsoft’s Hololens, a holographic computer device that projects holograms. The holograms projected can be interacted with and manipulated as if they are in one’s physical environs.  MR technology has already been used in the military, education, retail, gaming, healthcare, and so on.

By and large, What is XR?

XR is not a reality of its own. On the contrary, it is an umbrella or generic reference for AR, VR, and MR. Perhaps another kind of reality enhancement or recreation could be developed in the future. It will also be categorized as XR. This piece has attempted to explain what XR is and what it isn’t by explaining all the types of technologically-driven realities under it. Through GMetri, you can access qualitative XR solutions for your businesses.

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