Extended reality extends beyond the gaming industry.

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for technologies that combine reality with virtual environments. It is generated with the use of varied computer technologies and wearable devices.

07 September 2021

Girl tourist in glasses virtual reality. Virtual trip to Germany. The concept of virtual tourism. In the background is the square on Leopoldstrasse in Munich.

By Mariusz Bogacki, Researcher and Science Communicator, Edinburgh

This blend of the real and virtual world is divided into three main fields: virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.

Virtual reality (VR) relates to a fully digital, simulated environment in which users can visually experience an immersive computer-generated world. Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment in which objects from the real world are enhanced by computer-generated visuals. Mixed Reality (MR) is the combination of VR and AR that allows for digital and real-world objects to co-exists and interact in real-time. This is the most recent and advanced branch of XR as it requires the most processing power and high-speed connectivity.

The extended reality market is predicted to grow exponentially in the coming years. Its rapid expansion outreaches well beyond the gaming, education, and health industries, traditionally associated with AR and VR. Let’s take a look at some other industries expected to expand their realities with the use of XR.

Facebook metaverse
In a recent interview, Mark Zuckerberg said that “We will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” Metaverse, in this case, relates to a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences that the platform plans to provide its customers with. The social media giant is already inviting its users to collaborate digitally using Horizon Workrooms – a VR workspace for team meetings.

Like a Phoenix from the ashes
Recent months have been catastrophic for the live entertainment industry. However, artists have found new ways to keep their fans engaged through creative virtual reality concerts and meet-ups. A virtual reality concert allows fans to participate (in avatar form) in a live-streamed concert performed by a real-world artist or band. Extended reality allows the artists and producers to experiment with virtual set extensions that utilize physical LED displays and cameras to bring the most innovative and immersive experience for the concertgoers.

Try before you fly
The use of XR might not be new to the tourism industry. Travel agents have for some time advertised their destinations using virtual reality headsets. What has changed in recent months is the cooperation with hotels and excursions companies. Holidaymakers can now check out their rooms and amenities in detail before booking. Travelers are also able to test drive different trips and excursions to decide whether a safari tour is better than a scuba dive. Once arrived at their destination, tourists will be also able to use AR in cooperation with their mobile maps to help them locate the best restaurants and sightseeing spots.

Early proponents of XR assumed that the gaming industry will be the natural home for the merger of real and digital worlds. Yet, as the technologies and their applications develop, we can see that the potentials of extended reality are, well… real and extensive.