March 3, 2021

An Intro to XR and What's Currently Happening

A young boy wearing a white VR headset

Lately we've been seeing the term 'XR' pop up in a few releases, and this has audiences wondering... What is it? Is it a new type of reality experience? 

What is XR?

Known as extended reality, x-reality, or simply 'XR' is used as an umbrella term for the different reality experiences - virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. As it stands, it doesn't actually refer to any specific or new type of reality experience; the 'X' is essentially used to stand for any of the other established realities. The term has also been used to refer to the upcoming developments of tech companies in this emerging space. 

What's Happening in XR?

XR Technologies

In regards to a physical product, there currently isn't any one device on the market that is XR capable, but this is the direction that some tech companies are headed towards. Qualcomm is one company that's working on making the vision of an all-purpose XR wearable device into a reality. They are currently exploring ways to improve the existing VR, AR, and MR technology to be suitable for a truly seamless XR experience - including improving their motion tracking systems, display, screen illumination capabilities, power efficiency, and connectivity. These are long term goals for Qualcomm, but achieving them will allow the virtual elements of the experience to seamlessly mesh with the user's perspective of the real world and result in a realistic experience for its users. 

XR viewers

Another company, Disguise, is already presenting their own version of extended reality as the blending of "virtual and physical worlds together using Augmented reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) in live production environments to create fully immersive experiences." Disguise has handled the creative production of many world stage performances, and has exemplified how these technologies can revolutionize our entertainment. 

digital creative production

Video: Disguise XR Reel

XR Interface

One of the big issues for many developers working in the XR space is needing to customise the applications they build to each platform i.e. each application would need to be tweaked for each VR or AR device. Tech industry leaders of companies such as Oculus, Steam and NVIDIA established a new initiative called OpenXR in order to mitigate the increasing complications of developing for reality technologies. "OpenXR is a royalty-free, open standard that provides high-performance access" and where "developers can now create true cross-platform XR experiences.” This interface means that the process of developing will be streamlined and accessing the same application via a range of devices will be possible. 

XR experience players
XR players

Images: Before and After OpenXR comparisons for application development

Now that we have momentum in both the product and developing space of XR, we can't wait to see what new possibilities will surface with this technology. Are you looking forward to it?

Written by Amy Vuong

A UX/UI Designer at 42 Interactive focused on bringing meaningful projects to life through digital design.