Extended reality (XR) is the umbrella term for technologies that create immersive and interactive experiences. These technologies include virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and haptic feedback. Applications of XR are widespread and include art, entertainment, education, gaming, marketing, training, therapy, and research.
Virtual reality (VR) creates simulations of real or imagined environments.Typically, a VR system consists of a head-mounted display (HMD) that covers the user's eyes and ears and a controller that tracks the user's movements and inputs. Some systems also include haptic feedback devices that provide tactile sensations to the user.
VR works by presenting different images and sounds to each eye and ear, creating a 3D effect and a surround sound experience. The HMD tracks the user's head movements and adjusts the images and sounds accordingly, giving the user a sense of looking around and moving in the virtual environment. The controller allows the user to interact with the virtual objects and characters, such as picking up, throwing, or shooting them. Some VR systems also use sensors on the user's body or in the environment to track the user's position and motion, enabling the user to walk, run, or jump in the virtual space.
Augmented reality (AR) enhances the real world with digital information and media, such as 3D models, videos, sounds, and texts. AR works by using sensors, cameras, and software to track the user's position and orientation to then overlay relevant digital content on the user's view of the real world, which allows users to interact with both physical and virtual objects in their environment. For example, an AR app can overlay historical information and images on a building the user is viewing through their smartphone camera. AR can be experienced through smartphones, tablets, headsets, glasses, or projectors.
Mixed reality (MR) is a combination of real and virtual environments where physical and digital objects can interact with each other. For example, a mixed-reality headset can project a hologram of a person or an object in front of the user, and the user can manipulate it with gestures or voice commands. Mixed reality can be experienced through a number of devices, such as headsets, glasses, smartphones, or tablets, and can enhance the user’s perception and understanding of the real world, by overlaying information, graphics, or sounds on the user's view.
Haptic feedback uses touch and vibrations to communicate sensations or feelings to users, allowing users to interact physically with digital interfaces. It provides information to the user through the user interface (UI) by recreating the sense of touch through advanced vibration patterns and waveforms. An example of haptic feedback is when a controller vibrates during specific actions performed in a video game or when a smartphone provides a button-clicking sensation as the user presses their screen.