What is Extended Reality? | NVIDIA-Blog

Advances in extended reality have already changed the way we work, live and play, and it’s only just beginning.

Extended reality, or XR, is an umbrella category that covers an array of new, immersive technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

From gaming to virtual production to product design, XR has empowered people to create, collaborate, and explore in computer-generated environments like never before.

What is Extended Reality?

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality are all elements of XR technology.

Virtual reality places users in a virtual environment. Virtual reality users typically wear a headset that transports them into a virtual world – one moment they’re standing in a physical room, and the next they’re immersed in a simulated environment.

The latest VR technologies are pushing those boundaries, making these environments look and behave more like the real world. They also add support for additional senses, including touch, hearing, and smell.

With virtual reality, gamers can fully immerse themselves in a video game, designers and customers can review construction projects to finalize details before construction, and retailers can test virtual screens before committing to a physical screen.

Augmented reality it’s when a rendered image is overlaid on the real world. The mobile game Pokemon GO introduced AR to the mainstream by showing computer-rendered monsters standing on lawns and sidewalks as players roam their neighborhoods.

AR graphics are seen on cellphones, tablets and other devices, providing a new kind of interactive experience for users. Navigation directions, for example, can be enhanced with AR. Rather than following a 2D map, a windshield can overlay directions on the view of the road, with simulated arrows showing the driver exactly where to turn.

mixed reality is a seamless integration of the real world and rendered graphics, which creates an environment in which users can directly interact with the digital and physical worlds together.

With MR, real and virtual objects blend and are presented together in a single screen. Users can experience MR environments through a headset, phone, or tablet, and can interact with digital objects by moving or placing them in the physical world.

There are two types of MR:

  • Blend virtual objects into the real world – for example, when a user sees the real world through cameras in a VR headset with virtual objects seamlessly blended into view. See this example video.
  • Mix real-world objects into virtual worlds – for example, a camera view of a VR participant mixed into the virtual world, such as watching a VR player play in a virtual world.

XR’s story

To understand how far XR has come, consider its origins in virtual reality.

Virtual reality started in the federal sector, where it was used to train people in flight simulators. The energy and automotive design sectors were also early adopters. These VR simulation and visualization use cases required large supercomputers. He also needed dedicated spaces, including powerwalls, which are ultra-high resolution screens, and VR CAVEs, which are empty rooms in which the VR environment is projected onto every surface, from walls to ceiling.

For decades, VR remained unaffordable for most users, and the small VR ecosystem was mostly made up of large institutions and academic researchers.

But early in the previous decade, several key component technologies reached a tipping point, which precipitated the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift head-mounted displays (HMDs) and runtime environment. SteamVR.

Individuals could now purchase personal HMDs to experience great immersive content. And they could drive these HMDs and experiments from an individual PC or workstation with a powerful GPU.

Suddenly, virtual reality was accessible to millions of individuals, and a large ecosystem quickly sprang up, filled with innovation and excitement.

In recent years, a new wave of VR innovation has begun with the launch of all-in-one (AIO) headsets. Previously, fully immersive VR experiences required a physical connection to a powerful PC. The HMD could not function as a standalone device, as it had no operating system and no ability to compute the image.

But with AIO headsets, users gained access to a dedicated device with a simple setup that could deliver fully tracked virtual reality anywhere, anytime. Coupled with the innovation of VR streaming technology, users can now enjoy powerful VR environments even on the go.

Latest trends in XR

High-quality XR is becoming more and more accessible. Consumers around the world are buying AIOs to experience XR, from immersive gaming to distance learning to virtual training. Large companies are integrating XR into their workflows and design processes. XR dramatically improves design implementation through the inclusion of a digital twin.

Image courtesy of Innoactive.

And one of the biggest trends today is the streaming of XR experiences via 5G from the cloud. This eliminates the need to be tethered to workstations or limit experiments to a single space.

By streaming over 5G from the cloud, people can use XR devices and get the computing power to run XR experiences from a data center, regardless of location and time. Advanced solutions like NVIDIA CloudXR make immersive streaming more accessible, so more XR users can enjoy high-fidelity environments from anywhere.

AR is also becoming more common. After Pokemon GO has become a household name, AR has emerged in a number of additional consumer-focused areas. Many social media platforms added filters that users could overlay on their face. Retail organizations have incorporated AR to showcase photorealistic rendered 3D products, allowing customers to place these products in a room and view them in any space.

Additionally, companies in various industries such as architecture, manufacturing, healthcare, and many more are using technology to dramatically improve workflows and create unique interactive experiences. For example, architects and design teams are incorporating augmented reality for construction project tracking, so they can see progress on site and compare it to digital designs.

And while still fairly new, MR is expanding into the XR space. The trends are exemplified by the emergence of many new helmets designed for RM, including the Varjo XR-3. With MR headsets, engineering, design, simulation and research professionals can develop and interact with their 3D models in real life.

Varjo XR-3 helmet. Image courtesy of Varjo.

The future of XR

As XR technology advances, another technology is propelling users into a new era: artificial intelligence.

AI will play a major role in the XR space, from virtual assistants helping designers in VR to smart AR overlays that can guide individuals through DIY projects.

For example, imagine wearing a headset and telling the content what to do through natural speech and gestures. With hands-free, voice-activated virtual agents, even non-experts will be able to create stunning designs, complete extremely complex projects, and harness the capabilities of powerful applications.

Platforms like NVIDIA Omniverse have already changed the way users create 3D simulations and virtual worlds. Omniverse enables users around the world to develop and operate digital twin simulations. The platform gives users the flexibility to connect to the physically accurate, fully ray-traced virtual world through 2D monitors, or their preferred XR experience, so they can experience vast virtual worlds in an immersive way.

Stepping into the next evolution of XR, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Learn more and find out how companies can integrate XR with NVIDIA technologies.

The featured blog image includes KPF and Lenovo.


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