Reality, by definition, is the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. But what happens when you go beyond our physical world or even what is real? Extended reality (XR) is the umbrella of realities that are shifting, changing, and disrupting our current existence. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon because like it or not, this tech trend is sticking around and shaking things up.
There are 3 types of realities that make up the Extended Reality (XR) umbrella: augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).
Augmented reality (AR) is technology that overlays a computer-generated image on a real life subject. An example would be using a camera phone to take a picture and then overlaying a superimposed graphic on top of the image. AR adds to reality instead of replacing it. If you’ve updated your phone recently, you may have noticed the Measure app, a virtual tape measure, that was added. This and many more apps (some may be life saving) will begin to pop up. Remember the Pokemon GO craze? Apple, Google, and Snapchat are all stepping into what is predicted to be a multi-billion dollar technology.
Virtual reality (VR) is the most immersive type of reality technologies. The whole concept is to literally change your entire reality so it creates an experience for all of your senses to trick the brain (called immersion) into believing it is somewhere else. There are three levels of VR: non-immersive, semi-immersive, and fully-immersive. On a scale of 1-10, immersion increases in intensity as you engage more of your senses. VR typically requires a mixture of hardware (headset, microphone, and hand controllers) and software to achieve the goal of immersion. From video games to VR studios, this technology is no stranger to gamers and soon it will be a known friend to social media.
Mixed reality (MR) is a combination of the physical world with the digital world. Think about is like if VR and AR had a baby. Sometimes pictures speak and define better than words so a perfect example would be something like this:
Another familiar example would be Microsoft’s Hololense; The first self-contained, holographic computer that enables you to engage with digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you (if you are a Villager, come check out the one Microsoft gifted us!). If you are a user of a smartphone here is where your device lies on an MR scale:
Some may say XR (extended reality) is expected to truly take off and own the technology world come 2020. A predicted 1 billion people will have access to the use of this technology and flat images will no longer provide enough satisfaction to customers and users. Until then, you can expect Apple, Google, and Microsoft to continue to produce and refine products. And while the big 3 are doing what is expected, keep an eye on Magic Leap and the startups that are looking for disruption.
It’s the wild wild west y’all, anything can happen!