Understanding Emerging Tech: Extended Reality 101

Jaryd Sage 19 September 2023

You’ve probably heard the term “Extended Reality” or “XR” popping up everywhere these days. But what is it, exactly? Think of it as an umbrella term that covers several immersive technologies that are blending our physical world with the digital one.

Let’s delve deeper into the different types of extended realities, and how they are each being applied across a range of industries to create new and exciting experiences.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment. With VR headsets like Meta’s Oculus Quest or Apple’s Vision Pro, users are immersed in a completely digital world. Everything you see is a computer-generated environment, and depending on the tech, you can walk around, pick up objects, or even chat with other virtual beings.

VR Applications

Gaming: VR has revolutionised gaming, providing a fully immersive experience. Instead of watching a character on a screen, YOU become the character in VR games.
Training & Education: From flight simulators to medical training tools, VR provides risk-free training environments. Pharmaceutical company GSK used VR to educate people on what a migraine feels like, and Osso VR provides surgical training and assessment VR software.
Real Estate & Architecture: VR allows clients to take virtual property tours from anywhere in the world, and architects can visualise building designs before construction begins.
Therapy & Rehabilitation: VR can help treat phobias or assist in physical rehabilitation through simulated environments. TRIPP uses VR technology to create one-of-a-kind meditation journeys that provide elements like breath visualisation.
Tourism: Tourists can explore destinations prior to or instead of travel, or even gain access to inaccessible sites.
Marketing & Advertising: This technology is challenging traditional marketing strategies by allowing for immersive brand experiences, like Volvo who have created a virtual test driving VR experience.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality overlays digital content onto the real world. Using devices such as smartphones, tablets, or AR glasses like Microsoft’s HoloLens, users can see and sometimes interact with virtual elements placed within their lived environment.

AR Applications

Retail: Online shoppers can virtually try on clothes, or preview how furniture will look in their environment before making purchases. In 2019, Adidas introduced AR to their mobile shopping experience, allowing customers to try on sneakers virtually.
Maintenance & Repair: Technicians can view superimposed digital instructions when repairing complex equipment.
Healthcare: Surgeons can overlay digital imagery on actual body parts to assist in procedures.
Tourism: Visitors can see historical reconstructions of buildings superimposed over remaining ruins.
Marketing & Advertising: Brands can create interactive campaigns and 3D product previews.

Mixed Reality (MR)

MR is a blend of VR and AR. It anchors virtual objects to the real world, allowing users to interact with both simultaneously. With MR, digital and real-world elements can coexist and interact in real-time. So, if you put a virtual cup on a real table, and then push it, it’ll fall off the table just like a real one would.

MR Applications

Collaboration & Communication: Remote teams can interact with shared 3D models or diagrams as if they are in the same room.
Entertainment: MR can create interactive theatrical performances or concerts, mixing live action with digital enhancements.
Education: Students can interact with 3D models, bringing abstract concepts to life. Instead of just reading about a historic battle, you can watch it play out on your classroom table.
Tourism: Visitors can experience what an area could have been like at a different time in history, complete with interactive characters from days gone by.

Diminished Reality (DR)

Unlike AR that adds digital elements, DR removes real-world elements from view. Using real-time video streams, it can “erase” or modify aspects of reality.

DR Applications

Interior Design: DR can help visualise a space by removing existing furniture or decorations.
Safety & Security: It can be used to obscure private or sensitive information from a user’s view in real time.

Extended realities are shaping the next frontier of human-computer interaction. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect a future where our physical and digital realities are seamlessly interwoven, enhancing our experiences, capabilities, and understanding of the world around us. Whether for work, education, or entertainment, the potential applications of XR are only limited by our imagination.

If you’d like to learn more about some specific case studies, or discuss how these emerging technologies can be applied to your business, reach out below and LET’S CHAT!