An Introduction to Immersive Technologies (XR): AR, VR, MR

Immersive technologies are a rapidly growing field of modern technology. Often called Extended Reality (XR), this technology area has many potential applications for the modern business, particularly in the areas of UI/UX

What Are Immersive Technologies?

Modern technology has brought what was only seen on science fiction shows 30 years ago to the real world. Consumers can play virtual reality (VR) video games, surgeons can use a mixed reality (MR) headset to see a virtual image of scans over a body on the operating table, and busy cooks can receive recipe suggestions by laying out ingredients on an augmented reality (AR) table from IKEA. The possibilities offered by XR are almost limitless, and XR’s progress and development also seem to be advancing at lightning speed. 

What is XR?

There are three main areas of XR. While they are all similar, there are distinct differences between them. Here is a quick overview of the three types of XR.

1. Overview of AR

Augmented reality (AR) combines a view of the real world with added electronic content generated by video, sound, GPS data, or graphics. A headset is not required, and the real world and the virtually generated content do not interact with each other. 

Online retail has taken huge advantage of this technology. People shopping for furniture can virtually place it in a virtual replica of their home and are able to get a good sense of how it fits. (Or not.) People shopping for makeup can use AR to virtually “try on” makeup and see how it looks on them. 

2. Overview of VR

Virtual reality (VR) uses immersive multimedia or computer generation to create an imagined world with which the user can interact. Computer-generated VR is what is commonly thought of when VR is mentioned. The virtual experience is entirely computer generated. It is not reactive to the real world. This is most commonly experienced through a headset, though there are newer versions of the technology that are being applied to content-viewing hardware and a range of cameras. VR creates a computer-generated virtual experience with sounds and 3D graphics; a virtual world is generated by a headset, immersing the user in the virtual world. A headset is required, and there’s no real-world content. Other types of VR include 360° video, which uses real-world content to create an immersive viewing experience. 

3. Overview of MR

Mixed reality (MR) overlays synthetic content over the real world. While many people use AR and MR interchangeably, there are a few key differences, one of which is that this synthetic content is both connected to the real world and responds to it. The interaction between the synthetic and real world is the key difference between AR and MR. Microsoft’s HoloLens is an example of MR, as is a surgeon using a headset to view scans while operating. 

Uses and Benefits of XR

It is easy to imagine the many applications of XR across multiple industries. Here are how the top three sectors using XR are benefiting from this technology. 

1. Video Games

VR video games are incredibly popular. For example, the VR game Beat Saber sold 1 million copies in only nine months. 

2. Healthcare

Surgeons are using MR headsets to visualize where to cut most effectively and have easy access to life-saving information on a patient’s chart.

3. Education

AR can help students visualize text, interact with lecture elements, and even go on virtual “field trips.”


Other industries using XR are:

  1. Manufacturing

  2. Marketing

  3. Live Events

  4. Military

  5. Retail

  6. Real Estate

The Future of XR

While the future of XR is bright, there have been ups and downs in the commercialization of this new technology. For example, in the late 2010s, investment peaked at around 1.5 billion in 2017 and dropped down to about 1 billion in 2018. The reasons cited were a lack of consumer demand, slow technology adoption, an unestablished market, technology glitches, and intense competition. However, in 2020, the downshift seems to have slowed and is showing signs of reversing. Digi-Capital's assessment is that $19B was invested in XR technologies. Products are having more impact, and investors are seeing a positive return. Another positive sign for XR is an increase in access to 5G internet, which will make running XR programs smoother. In fact, experts believe that XR will be close to ubiquitous by 2025. And as other technologies develop, such as brain-computer interfaces, applications, and tools for XR will only increase. 

Immersive Technologies and Encora

Companies who are interested in leveraging the power of XR to streamline their UI/UX need to look no further than the experts at Encora. They know that user experience makes or breaks customer engagement. Encora’s engineers are skilled at incorporating XR in effective, streamlined ways that support a business's customer experience. Reach out to Encora with questions or to get started today.

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