What is Extended Reality (XR)?
It’s the year 2030, and you have a busy day scheduled. You need to check on your production lines in China, visit Mars during your lunch break, and attend a business meeting in Brazil – all from the comfort of your office in London.
While it might sound far-fetched now, this future might be within our grasp thanks to advancements in Extended Reality (XR). Today’s infographic from Raconteur illustrates the growth of XR technology, and its potential to transform business across industries.
Understanding Extended Reality
To understand Extended Reality (XR), we’ll begin by defining three of its main components: virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.
Virtual Reality (VR) applications use headsets to fully immerse users in a computer-simulated reality. These headsets generate realistic sounds and images, engaging all five senses to create an interactive virtual world.
Augmented Reality (AR) is not a new reality, but a layer on top of your existing one. Rather than immersing users, AR relies on a device – usually the camera in your phone or tablet – to overlay digital graphics and sounds into a real-world environment. Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters are commonplace examples of this kind of technology.
Mixed Reality (MR) lies somewhere in between VR and AR. It blends real and virtual worlds to create complex environments where physical and digital elements can interact in real time. Like AR, it overlays synthetic content in a real-world environment; and like VR, this content is interactive, and users can manipulate the digital objects in their physical space.
With their Spectator View, Microsoft has used MR as a complement to their HoloLens AR product. The Spectator View app offers users a third-party perspective of a HoloLens user and their AR content in real time.
Extended Reality (XR) is the umbrella term used for VR, AR, and MR, as well as all future realities such technology might bring. XR covers the full spectrum of real and virtual environments.
The use of an umbrella term speaks to the future of XR as a fundamental shift in the way people interact with media. In the future, instead of saying “I’m using AR to attend a business meeting” – it will just be another day at the office. People will interact with the real and virtual worlds in seamless ways, without mention of extended reality’s distinct categories and their underpinning technology.
To use an umbrella term is to recognize the intersection of these technologies, and the many ways they will work together to disrupt our everyday tasks.
XR for Business
Extended reality is changing the landscape in a number of industries. It’s expected to grow eightfold, reaching an estimated market size of more than $209 billion by 2022.
A glance at current use cases shows the potential for XR across industries:
XR brings immersive experiences to the entertainment world, and offers consumers an opportunity to virtually experience live music and sporting events from the comfort of their VR headset. While a majority of market share leans heavily towards entertainment, it’s not the only one gearing up for a virtual expansion.
Virtual realities have opened new ways for brands to engage with consumers, offering immersive ways to interact with new products.
Extended reality opens new avenues for training and education. People who work in high-risk conditions – like chemists and pilots – can train in safety from a more conventional classroom setting. Medical students, meanwhile, can get hands-on practice on virtual patients.
- Real Estate
Property managers can streamline the rental process by allowing potential tenants to view properties virtually, while architects and interior designers can leverage XR to bring their designs to life.
- Remote Work
XR removes distance barriers, allowing remote employees to seamlessly access data from anywhere in the world.
Extended reality is not without its challenges. The spread of data presents a new layer of vulnerability for cyber attacks, while the high cost of implementation is a barrier to entry for many companies.
But even these challenges can’t slow the progress of XR, and the question remains: how will businesses define reality five years from now?