Why Should We Care About XR?
Everything is becoming more and more virtual, as can be seen by the influx of XR (Extended Reality). Some estimate that, by 2022, the XR industry will reach about 209 billion U.S. dollars. That is a huge jump in two years for any technology-driven venture.
However, XR is not something that came out of the blue. Instead, we can see it as a development of an age-old idea. We can say that it started with motion detector games where your movements controlled the playable characters.
Then, we had virtual reality (VR) video games. These types of games allowed the player to immerse themselves in the virtual world thanks to VR goggles. Namely, it let them do in-game tasks while moving their body in the real world.
XR is the next evolution in this field, but it doesn’t have to do with gaming as much as VR. XR technologies can have many practical usages for several industries, particularly in manufacturing and employee training.
What Is Extended Reality?
Extended Reality is a mix of the real and virtual world. It is an immersive technology that can either create a virtual immersive “world” or one that blends the virtual with the real by overlapping it. There are three types of XR that we can use today and that we plan to enhance as time goes on. They are:
- Virtual Reality (VR)
- Augmented Reality (AR)
- Mixed Reality (MR)
Virtual Reality (VR)
As mentioned earlier, VR can be seen as an early stage of XR, especially in the beginning, when all the bugs were being figured out. Nowadays, it is used a lot more, mostly for gaming. But, it can still be used in other ways, for example, in the military or healthcare. VR can be an excellent training tool, and it can be very immersive. However, a downside is that many players, especially new ones, can experience a type of motion sickness after 30 minutes of gameplay or even less.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR goes more into the real world by overlaying virtual images over it. That can be in the form of text, for example, through AR glasses. A well-known and popular example of augmented reality is Pokémon GO, a phone game that makes digital creatures “appear” in the real world.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Mixed Reality is, in essence, a combination of AR and VR. With MR, the virtual world is overlaid onto the real world like with AR, but it allows you to interact with the objects you see via VR. It is also known as Hybrid Reality.
Extended Reality Is the Way of The Future
XR is heading into its next stage of evolution, and the applications of XR are changing. They are going from primary gaming to other practical uses, such as training soldiers. Training can make or break a company, and with XR, they will be able to instruct their future and current employees safely. Healthcare workers, astronauts, and pilots could benefit from it the most. Plus, chemists would be able to figure out formulas without putting themselves at physical risk. It can be a tool to figure out problems before they happen. It is, all in all, safer and uses fewer resources while letting employees get better at their jobs. In other words, they can go through trial and error without the consequence of loss.
What’s in It for the Average Joe?
There is also another theory that XR can be used by customers to try out outfits before they buy them, as well as to explore a new home as if they were there. That can be seen in some shops where AR is used to enhance the shopping experience. For example, there is an app for IKEA that lets people place the furniture in a space to get a better idea of how it would look before they buy anything.
Plus, some apps can now help you with navigation. That is, you can follow a digital path as you walk. XR (more likely VR) could also close the gap in the distance with people that work from home. The latter can make it seem as if they were working in a virtual office with other people. Real estate could use XR to let the potential house owners visit the house they are interested in.
The mind is a powerful thing, but it sometimes needs visual cues to work. That is what XR offers. Visual cues for training, learning, and, eventually, fixing problems as they happen. That can be the direction that MR is heading towards. It could help people interact with virtual objects to create a physical outcome. Perhaps a teacher could use a virtual classroom to host lessons in virtual worlds. They could even use MR to make the lessons more detailed and interesting. Imagine a 3D model of a floating frog and the instructor dissecting it, for example.
Why Should We Care About Extended Reality?
XR affects us even today, with not only games such as the aforementioned Pokémon GO or VR games but also with platforms such as Instagram. There is even a face ID to unlock certain phones such as the iPhone XR and iPhone XS. These are only the first few steps of XR evolution with more to come, and that is why we should care about it. It is the future in development, and we will wait to see how XR affects us and the future technologies.
Plus, there can be many upsides to using XR outside gaming. It could help people with social anxiety disorder or those that suffer from major depression. XR can let them interact with people in a safe environment. That would significantly improve their confidence and mental health.
XR has a lot of potential. However, there will be some bumps in the road and a lot of bugs to squash. It will not replace human interaction, but it may bring people closer together. All in all, we can only wait to see how XR affects the future technologies.