XR is new, exciting tech, and everyone is talking about it. But what does XR mean and when can you start using this technology? We’ll take a look at how XR is different from AR and VR, and how it will integrate with new devices and the gear you own already.
XR, cross reality, or extended reality, is a catchall term for several different but related technologies. It rolls together similar acronyms like VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR (mixed reality). Once you know that tidbit, understanding XR gets a whole lot simpler.
Below, we’ll guide you quickly through the word swamp surrounding XR tech. You’ll see fast comparisons to VR, AR, and MR, plus XR examples. After reading this overview, you’ll have a better grip on your own reality when it comes to this new term.
What is XR?
In short, XR is a "plus reality" technology that uses any type of display. XR is VR plus AR.
XR stands for "Extended Reality," which is an umbrella term that covers VR, AR, and MR. All of the XR technologies take the screen interface from person to computer and modify it, either by 1) immersing you in the virtual environment (VR), or 2) adding or augmenting the user's surroundings (AR), or 3) both of those (MR).
The term XR has been around for decades. It first appeared in the 1960s when Charles Wyckoff filed a patent for his "XR" silver halide film, which was intended for imaging extremely bright light events, such as nuclear detonations.
Recently, the term has moved into the mainstream as device makers struggle to describe the various display upgrades they're working with. Two examples immerse players in action by placing a screen (smartphone screen or headset) right in front of their eyes (VR) or add game characters to real-world surroundings as in the popular Pokémon Go (AR).