It hasn’t been long since AI’s offsprings — virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) — fired up our imagination, but a new family member — extended reality (XR) — has already come into general use. This notion combines the three phenomena, and their proliferation and convergence are the reason why XR has emerged. At the same time, XR is also gaining steam and affecting numerous processes and events. Let’s figure out what this phenomenon means, what its core capabilities are, and what business value it has.
The Genesis of Extended Reality
Extended reality is an umbrella term that encompasses virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.
That is why, to get a thorough understanding of this “platform” that fuses the three terms together, we need to look at each of them individually.
VR, a.k.a. the computer-simulated reality, is a technology that allows humans to immerse into a reality that is entirely different from a real one or that replicates reality. In other words, it builds a digital reality that replaces a user’s real-world one. Enabled by specific headsets, virtual reality provides an environment with realistic images and sounds, while a comprehensive VR environment involves all five senses, including smell, taste and touch.
This approach provides humans with an opportunity to gain new experiences and come to be in places where they are unable to be at a specific moment of time. VR is widely used in the gaming and entertainment industries, as well as for various types of training. Depending on the final objective, the virtual reality may look very realistic or may resemble cartoon images.
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Unlike VR, augmented reality is not a world that is entirely different from a real one. This technology augments the existing physical environment with specific features by enriching it with graphics, video, sounds and other data. It can be said that AR exists “on top of” our reality, as it just adds some attributes but does not change it completely. At the same time, users cannot interact with a synthetic environment. In other words, it puts an “overlay” on our world.
The cameras of mobile devices, as well as headsets, help humans put an overlay on their real world. This technology has found extensive use in the gaming industry and is applied for enhancing the presentation of sports events. Probably the most vivid example of its implementation is the Pokemon Go game.
As the name suggests, mixed reality combines elements of both real and virtual environments and creates a new world where physical and synthetic objects come together and interact. Also, these objects can react to each other on a real-time basis.
Flexibility is a key characteristic of this type of reality. That is why “mixed” environments compile the best attributes of each of the worlds – real and synthetic. Also, it makes the best use of augmented reality and virtual reality. MR allows users to see the real world alongside with some virtual objects that are anchored to a certain real point, which enables users to treat them as real objects.
The Essence of Extended Reality
Now we have a clear notion of VR, AR and MR — phenomena that make up XR. We are now ready to take a closer look at the definition of extended reality and the key features of XR.
What Does XR Mean?
Extended reality stands on three pillars — VR, AR and MR, which is why it combines core features of each of them and everything between these interrelated phenomena. According to the extended reality definition, it incorporates real and virtual environments and concerns technologically powered interactions between humans and machines. Since XR depends on each of the underlying technologies, innovations that bring about changes also create new XR experiences.
Why is XR being increasingly used in various verticals and business operations? The main reason is that it helps eliminate distance barriers, and Accenture’s survey proves this point: 36% of CEOs consider it to be the key factor in adopting XR. As a great number of operations become geographically distributed, extended reality helps address issues that are caused by remoteness.
However, it is not only the distance to information or to talents that extended reality addresses: XR solutions, such as 3D environments, significantly enhance obtaining valuable insights. They develop the new reality that allows humans to get new knowledge that they are not likely to gain using their eyes, imagination and intelligence.
The Advantages of XR Reality
Is extended reality good for business, or does it just improve user experience? Companies that apply environments powered by the technology do get valuable benefits, such as:
- The provision of an unusual experience. A dive into a radically different reality allows companies to provide their users with the possibility of visiting places of interest or experiment something without leaving the house.
- Efficient information uptake. XR provides its users with a more realistic view of their subject matter, which allows them to be trained in a more effective manner.
- Safe training. Those who need to practice in high-risk conditions, such as military or chemists, can train safely from conventional classrooms.
- Seamless data access. XR removes distance barriers, which is why humans can smoothly access remote data.
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The Disadvantages of XR Reality
In spite of the above-mentioned tempting opportunities of XR, it has the following drawbacks:
- Compromised privacy. As with any other technology, XR is prone to cyber-attacks, in particular, to data hacks. It can result in serious damage, since XR-related solutions have access to tons of private information.
- Reduced social engagement. Extended reality provides numerous ways of amusement, which may completely engross human minds and may threaten to eliminate the necessity for communication. Although XR allows people to communicate, it enables it in a different way that lacks contact and personal interaction.
- Physical harm. Long-term application of VR devices and augmented reality glasses may cause eye disorders, nausea, faintness and headache.
- The high cost of implementation. The development and implementation of XR solutions and devices that support this technology are extremely expensive, which is why it may come at a high cost.
Extended Reality: Most Efficient Use Cases
Numerous companies from the gaming industry, healthcare, engineering, entertainment industry, real estate, retail and the military sector around the world are already making the most of the technology. What can we do with extended reality? Let’s explore the most successful examples of extended reality use cases.
The forecast distribution of the AR and MR market in 2022
Video games are the main consumer of extended reality technology as their share accounts for 34%. It is no wonder, as the business success of the companies of the kind relies heavily on the ability to provide a full-fledged immersive experience.
However, it is not only video games that derive benefits from XR capability to create a comprehensive participation effect and allow users to dive into another reality. Entertainment events, such as concerts, exhibitions and sports events, can also thrive on AR, VR and MR. By what means? Instead of hustling in overcrowded museums or stadiums, people can visit the Louvre museum or watch the World Cup final while sitting at home but feeling completely immersed into the event.
Yet another example is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which already uses AR to fully convey the message of its exposition to visitors. The technology enables visitors to see dinosaurs instead of their fossils.
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Extended reality solutions can be of great help for real estate agencies. They allow potential customers and tenants to view properties without having to physically be there. It saves time for all of the parties involved and makes the process of choosing less tiring.
Another example of XR application in real estate is architecture and interior design. The technology will provide specialists and their customers with a comprehensive view of the project, which helps avoid mistakes and unexpected surprises. Houzz, a design company, relies on augmented reality to help their customers imagine their future furnishings. They have created an online app that allows users to get ideas for home improvement. By the way, the agency claims that this app increases purchase probability elevenfold.
Medical imaging is another area that benefits from extended reality, and modern MRIs and CT scan make extensive use of this technology. It enables the 3D representation of human bodies instead of the traditional 2D imaging, which improves the efficiency of diagnosing.
Also, this technology considerably expands the opportunities for surgical training, as students can practice on virtual patients.
Komatsu, a large manufacturer of construction, mining and utility equipment, has also adopted XR for the training of equipment operators. To avoid multi-million losses caused by improper use of costly machines, they provide training for operators distributed across the globe.
General Electric has improved the efficiency of their workers that wire wind turbines by 34%, as the company provides AR-based assembly information.
Extend Your Business Opportunities Using Extended Reality
You get to choose whether to apply XR technology for your business operations or not. Extended reality provides valuable advantages to businesses, and thousands of companies already get the best of it. At the same time, as with any other emerging technology, XR implementation is still a bit risky and requires significant investment.
That is why the choice of a reliable service provider is half the battle here, as considerable expertise allows customers to avoid mistakes and minimize risk.