What Is Extended Reality?

Author: Jai hao Wu

Editors: Ivan Fang and Jasleen Matharu

Artist(s): Nicole Wang

Extended reality is the universal term for immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). Although extended reality is a relatively new concept, it has tremendous potential in the entertainment and medical industries. For example, extended reality can help people visualize certain images or scenes better, especially when a more in-depth approach aids in the learning experience. In addition, it allows a person to add onto or simulate reality in a virtual world.

Virtual reality is more familiar to most people. Virtual reality immerses people in a new world, leaving the entire real world behind. Some well-known virtual reality devices include Oculus, Sony, HTC, Livemap, Magic Leap, and Pico Interactive. Moreover, the potential of virtual reality has enormous benefits. Doctors, for example, can simulate certain surgeries or procedures in a virtual reality setting, which is much more helpful than what they use to practice now. Moreover, games have improved when utilizing virtual reality. Not only is the experience more realistic and interactive, but players have a more solid “presence” in the game; appearing in the setting itself is more interactive than looking at a screen.

Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality but differs in that it adds to a person’s experience rather than replacing it. For example, it can overlay a video a person sees with other “objects” or other computer-generated inputs. Augmented reality does not just add images or “photoshop” something onto a video. It also provides other sensory overlays like sounds that can respond to real-time changes; virtual reality cannot do that. Augmented reality has many uses, many of which coincide with virtual reality. For example, in the gaming industry, augmented reality can provide a platform for a game in the real world. In medicine and education, augmented reality can add elements that improve learning.

Mixed reality is the combination of virtual reality and augmented reality. Similar to augmented reality, it allows a person to interact with digital data in the real world. However, it’s not limited to a screen. While augmented reality overlays objects in the real world, mixed reality combines the virtual and real world by anchoring virtual objects into the real world. An example would be opening a virtual box on a person’s bedside table. The table is real, but the box is not. We can also apply the same uses in virtual and augmented reality to mixed reality.

The potential of extended reality is limitless. As this technology evolves, so will its functions. Extended reality is the future of increasingly interactive experiences. While this technology seems novice and immature, it already significantly impacts our lives.



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