What is Extended Reality? Demystifying Extended Reality Tech

XR Today is tackling the confusing subject of extended reality (XR). This up-and-coming technology seamlessly blends virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), namely for enterprise use.

Additionally, immersive firms leverage XR to build solutions for engineers, soldiers, medical professionals, and even pilots. These professionals use new devices to merge the physical and virtual worlds with creative, engaging immersive content.

According to Precedence Research, the global XR market reached $35.14 billion USD this year. It is also expected to top $345.9 billion by 2030 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33.09 percent.

Following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, XR saw a tremendous acceleration in adoption and new solutions across industry verticals. Sectors such as retail, medical, remote guidance, and even the military leveraged the technology to circumvent the challenges of COVID-19.

Here are some reasons businesses worldwide turn to XR to digitally transform their operations.

Defining XR

XR blends the physical and virtual worlds with digital overlays that interact in real-time with real-life objects. This, combined with cutting-edge hand and eye tracking, combine real-time 3D (RT3D) content with a person’s field of view (FoV).

Most recently, companies have begun unlocking potential use cases for XR. This includes Varjo’s XR-2, Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, Pico Interactive’s Pico 4 Enterprise, and Meta Platform’s Quest Pro. Also, Apple’s long-awaited headset is expected to release in 2023, following ongoing revisions.

Along with hardware solutions, these companies are creating their own comprehensive solutions for their respective headset lineups. This allows for simultaneous mobile device management (MDM), rapid deployments, and increase versatility for independent software vendors (ISVs).

The Three Types of Extended Reality

There are currently three forms of extended reality, each defined by the level of interaction between the virtual and real worlds. Here’s a closer look at each:

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality is the most widely-used XR format and expands on the real world with digital overlays. Devices can use them to project documents, images, text and video streams on a user’s FoV.

Comparatively, AR is the most accessible of the three as people can readily use it on their smartphones. This creates a broader adoption rate than VR and MR, which requires headsets to function.

Global audiences experienced AR first-hand after Niantic’s debut of Pokémon Go. Conversely, at the enterprise level, AR has evolved drastically, including:

  • Delivering real-time guidance and information to professionals for better productivity
  • Offering hands-free assistance to staff by streaming information to smart glasses
  • Generating stronger communicative and collaborative immersive experiences
  • Boosting retail interactions with ‘try-before-you-buy’ experiences for customers
  • Offering remote guidance with service, support, and walkthrough experiences.

New devices like the Magic Leap 2 are set to completely disrupt the AR market with cutting-edge technologies for enterprise use cases.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality immerses the user completely in unique, interactive virtual spaces. Unlike AR, people using VR devices employ fully-immersive headsets, base stations, sensors, and controllers. Some devices also tether to PCs with high-end graphical processors for optimal functionality.

VR first rose to fame in the gaming industry to offer gamers immersive experiences tethered to gaming consoles. Sony’s PlayStation VR (PSVR) and upcoming PSVR 2 are examples of such designs.

With today’s modern VR devices, users can:

  • Safely train employees to enter dangerous work environments
  • Create virtual meeting rooms for collaboration between teams
  • Improve efficiency and productivity in product design processes
  • Enable the quick prototyping and discovery of new product ideas
  • Create unique consumer/brand experiences for major companies

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed Reality is where things start to get a little confusing for most in the XR landscape. With MR, users can join holographic meetings with colleagues or interact with digital twins of a product. They can also design products collaboratively, in the same immersive space and in real-time.

One of the best examples of this is Varjo’s XR-3 headsets with Autodesk VRED and Reality Cloud solutions. Despite MR remaining in its early stages, firms are developing a growing ecosystem of solutions for current headsets.

This specific format can:

  • Align teams across geographies using holograms
  • Create immersive product-building and design experiences
  • Enhance training and development strategies
  • Offer real-time guidance and support to staff in dangerous situations
  • Change the way users interact with machinery in the modern world

What Can Extended Reality Do?

Developers are just scratching the surface of XR. Research suggests around 60 percent of people believe XR will become a mainstream environment in the next five years. XR’s meteoric rise is also expected to empower businesses to develop metaverse solutions for enterprise users.

By combining virtual and real landscapes, XR can build use cases for:

Customer Experiences (CX)

Furthermore, with AR, companies can provide customers with try-on experiences for clothing, furniture, motor vehicle parts, and other products before purchasing. Also, VR can engage customers with immersive demos and provide customers with support and service walkthroughs.

Training and development

XR has become synonymous with education, with many companies leveraging the technology across universities, human resource (HR) departments, and even military bases.

All formats across XR have become increasingly vital for upskilling, training, and building diversity, equality and inclusion across workforces (DE&I). Companies like Moth and Flame or Oberon Technologies offer on-demand, bespoke training for real-life skills in dangerous work environments.

Remote Work

Workers can now connect easily with other teams and collaborate in real-time with immersive platforms. With MR and AR, specialists can even guide team members remotely through complex tasks, like how to fix a problem on a piece of manufacturing machinery.

Marketing and Sales

Firms are even exploring opportunities to engage customers with XR technologies. Many use VR showrooms to debut new products and build immersive worlds with competitions and campaigns.

Entertainment and Events

VR events are quickly trending across the industry, with enterprise-ready solutions like Arthur, AltSpaceVR, rooom, Horizon Worlds, and Improbable building future event platforms.

What Will the Future of XR Look Like?

In addition, XR has gained more attention, but there are still challenges to overcome. Companies investing in extended reality’s future will need to carefully consider how to tackle issues like:

  • Expensive hardware: While affordable XR tools are emerging across the current market, the most advanced ones are still rather expensive.
  • Consumer comfort: Clunky, uncomfortable, and disorienting headsets can make spending more time in XR difficult. Consumer comfort is essential for the future of XR development.
  • Security and safety: A lot of the benefits of XR rely on tools to protect data and information. Developers will need to address safety and security to facilitate this.

The XR environment is ideal for offering everything, from remote assistance to immersive collaboration. With emerging technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain, XR is expected to strengthen and push the boundaries of the immersive experience.



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