Extended Reality (RX) is a term that encompasses multiple technologies but also describes a range of reality-altering methods, including Virtual Reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). Virtual reality brings all of these ideas together under one roof.
Element 1: Virtual Reality
VR is probably the RX element most people are familiar with. In the RX spectrum, VR is the only technology that completely separates you from reality. At a minimum, virtual reality replaces your vision and hearing of the world around you with a virtual world that simulates reality. More advanced forms of virtual reality also include haptic feedback, which is the term used for various forms of haptic feedback.
VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 allow you to instantly travel to another location, allowing you to feel a ‘presence’ in a virtual world separate from the one you’re actually occupying.
Virtual reality is authentic reality
Element 2: Augmented Reality
Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not separate you from the real world. On the contrary, it enhances the real world with digital images and sounds. Pokemon Go is perhaps the most famous recent example. The app shows one of the popular pocket monsters on your phone screen, with the camera image behind it, so it looks like Pikachu is actually visiting you.
Pokemon Go is a particularly advanced AR app. C’est un exemple de RA « sans marqueur », où la caméra n’a pas besoin de voir d’objet spécial dans le monde réel pour activer l’expérience de RA et garder la trace de la position et de l’orientation correctes for you. Most previous augmented reality experiences required a tag, which could be a sticker or a distinct object.
Using machine learning and machine vision technology, augmented reality software can now recognize objects such as tables and walls and correctly display images on those surfaces.
Augmented reality is a broad concept that also includes things that not many people would expect. For example, the Head-Up Display (HUD) found in combat aircraft and some modern vehicles can be considered AR. As long as digital information is projected onto your view of the real world, it’s AR.
Element 3: Mixed Reality
At first glance, MR looks a lot like augmented reality. As its name suggests, it consists of blending the virtual world and the real world. The main difference between AR and RM is that RM perceives the real world to a different degree than AR. The concepts are part of a continuum, but RM is easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for.
RM experiences integrate digital elements into the real world, appearing as if they really existed. Virtual objects often pass behind real world objects and even take into account room lighting and shadows cast by real objects.
A famous example of a mixed reality headset is Microsoft’s Hololens. This high-end helmet uses an advanced “3D processor” and special sensors to project images onto a special transparent visor. The field of view is very narrow, but it’s great technology.
However, MR is already prevalent, and headphones with external motion-tracking cameras have basic MR features. For example, the Oculus Quest can use external monochrome tracking cameras to bring things like a sofa or keyboard into virtual reality in the real world.
Will the XR replace virtual reality?
Given that XR became a more popular term years after the second generation of modern VR (ie the Oculus Rift), it’s no surprise that people are wondering if this is the next big thing that will replace VR. In fact, XR devices are likely to offer a choice of VR, AR, or MR experiences. You can be in a full VR experience, then quickly switch to MR mode to take care of real-world things before returning to VR.
Even if a device offers no more than one type of XR, the concept of XR helps developers think differently about how to create content and experiences. Rather than viewing them as separate technologies, they are simply different facets.
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