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XR At a Glance

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XR Evolution XR Evolution
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What is XR? What is XR?

XR at a Glance

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What is XR?

XR is an umbrella term that encompasses AR, VR, mixed reality, and other forms of alternate, expanded, or immersive reality applications, including those not yet invented.

The XR Association promotes the dynamic global growth of the XR industry, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed-reality, and future immersive technology. XRA is leading the way for the responsible development and adoption of XR by convening stakeholders, developing best practices and research, and advocating on behalf of our members and the greater XR industry.

Association members represent the headset and technology manufacturers across the broad XR industry, including Google, HTC, VIVE, Microsoft, Oculus from Facebook, and Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Google Sony Interactive Entertainment Oculus from facebook Microsoft Vive

Types of XR Technology

Virtual reality (VR)is an immersive medium that replaces a user’s real surroundings with a simulated environment, such as a foreign destination, a virtual lecture hall, or a video game. Rather than viewing two-dimensional content on a screen, VR users are immersed in and able to interact with 3D worlds. By incorporating multiple senses, such as 360-degree vision, hearing, and touch, VR headsets function as gatekeepers to artificial worlds.

Augmented reality (AR) layers computer-generated imagery onto a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. For example, an AR-enabled windshield might display information about a driver’s speed or nearby traffic conditions without obscuring the road. Alternatively, in smartphone-enabled AR, a shopper might use a mobile camera to virtually test out living room furniture before making a purchase.

Mixed reality (MR)blends augmented and virtual reality, allowing users to experience simulated content within their physical worlds and to manipulate and interact with virtual elements in real time. In mixed reality, a user might place a 3D image of a sofa in their living room, as they could in AR, but also turn, reposition, resize, or otherwise adjust the image to explore different views and angles.

How has XR evolved to date?

XR remains in the early stages of the innovation timeline, with early adopters and enterprise users scratching the surface of the technology’s possible applications.

While XR can be traced in principle to 1920s-era flight simulators, its more modern forms date to 1962, first when cinematographer Morton Heilig patented the Telesphere Mask and shortly thereafter when Ivan Sutherland created the “Sword of Damocles” that rendered images for the viewer’s changing position, giving rise to head-mounted displays (HMDs). In 1977, George Lucas gave viewers a mass commercial look at holographic imagery when Princess Leia called out for Obi Wan Kenobi. More than a decade later, in one of the first commercial applications of AR technology, General Motors created a heads-up display for the Oldsmobile Cutlass in 1988. These early incarnations of XR technology have given way to sleeker form factors and an array of compelling content. With powerful, life-saving applications to healthcare, workforce development, education, manufacturing, and more, XR is poised to become a bigger part of day-to-day life for users across the globe.


Virtual Reality Applications

ABC10: War on Opioids: Virtual reality manages pain without pills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tagged) reports that nearly 50 million Americans live with chronic pain. To ease this pain, some are reaching for a VR headset. Breakthrough Therapy tracked post-surgical patients in the program for one year and found that the cost of care was reduced by 45 percent which meant fewer pain medications and fewer ER visits. The developers of the VR therapy hope to make it part of a physical therapy regimen in centers around the country.

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Google Expeditions uses virtual reality to give students opportunities to explore the world and bring abstract concepts to life without ever leaving the classroom.

The Pasco County Fire Rescue uses virtual reality to simulate real-life hazard scenarios, allowing firefighters to train without having to enter smoke-filled buildings or expose themselves to harsh elements.

Conceptual Productivity

Augmented Reality Applications

AccuVein developed an AR imaging device that allows health care professionals to see a map of peripheral veins on the skin’s surface, resulting in an increase in successful IV insertions on the first try.

QuiverVision’s Quiver Education app allows teachers to bring concepts to life with AR experiences that work in tandem with real-world coloring book experiences, helping students better understand concepts in fields such as biology and geometry.

Using AR, trainees at Japan Airlines (JAL) operate detailed holograms displaying cockpit devices and switches, helping them convert intellectual memory to muscle memory and enhancing flight safety and crew efficiency.

In 2016, Niantic’s viral Pokémon Go app demonstrated the power of AR to make players’ own surroundings part of their gaming experiences. The app allowed users to explore their communities with their smartphones in search of more than 500 Pokémon projected into their real-life surroundings.

Conceptual Productivity

Mixed Reality

At Imperial College London/St. Mary’s Hospital, surgeons are using Microsoft HoloLens headsets to overlay 3D digital models of blood vessels, bones, and muscles over patients’ limbs during reconstructive surgery, making procedures quicker and safer.

Microsoft and Pearson partnered to create a mixed-reality curriculum using HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality headsets to immerse students in subject areas such as health, history, chemistry, and math.

PACCAR, a global leader in the design and manufacturing of commercial trucks, is using Dynamics 365 Guides and HoloLens to easily create heads-up, hands-free holographic employee training materials.

In 2019, Live Nation Entertainment launched a suite of mixed reality experiences, including a livestream in which users can see three-dimensional views of their selected performances by merely pointing the app toward a flat surface.

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See why HR professionals identified XR technology as a key tool in addressing America's employment crisis in our interactive infographic.