What Extended Reality (XR) Means for Business

Immersive technology enables us to merge the physical and virtual worlds (and vice versa). Mixed realities are changing the way we shop, interact on social media and, most importantly, how we tell stories. The different realities—VR, AR, MR, and now XR—continue to evolve and blend into our everyday lives.

Extended Reality (XR) encompasses all realities. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses everything: 360-degree video, augmented, virtual, and mixed realities, and whatever other realities might be created in the future. XR has always been an acknowledged technology; it just didn’t have a name. Now it’s disrupting the news media, healthcare, film, retail, and marketing industries.

Platforms like Unity are embracing the term XR. Interestingly, the title of one of their top developers, Sarah Stumbo, is “XR evangelist.” I’ve also seen the term pop up prominently during this year’s VRLA conference, where Malia Probst, of VR Scout, and Martina Welkhoff, founder of Convene VR, announced Women in XR, an initiative that connects female founders and women-led businesses to capital, resources, and each other.

XR is a new forum of conversation between users and brands; one that can create efficiency and profitability in the marketplace.

The immersive experiences XR has to offer will fundamentally change storytelling and the way marketers engage with consumers. Even though the XR environment is virtual, the interactivity is real. It will allow users to customize their choices and choose the path they wish to venture on. In the end, XR is a new forum of conversation between users and brands; one that can create efficiency and profitability in the marketplace.

XR holds the promise of obtaining an extensive reach. As immersive tech continues to mature, it will become easily accessible because all realities will eventually overlap, meaning that moving from VR to AR or MR will eventually be a seamless experience in XR. If XR is the convergence of all realities, users need to be able to access it on one device. A temporary solution is smartphones, which already enjoy wide adoption, but a single XR wearable will hit the marketplace in the future. It’ll be able to easily switch between our world and the virtual one.

Certain challenges arise when it comes to merging realities, according to Tim Leland, vice president of product management at Qualcomm. In a VentureBeat article, he said that “AR animations, overlaid on the real world, still look fake. For instance, if AR objects are inserted into the real world but don’t cast shadows, they clearly won’t fit seamlessly in the landscape. But enabling accurate lighting and shadows will require a lot more horsepower, and that will tax battery life.” This is why tech companies like Qualcomm are working to improve the quality of XR. Wearable glasses are just the first attempt to solve these challenges.

XR is the new symbiotic balance of these realities. Even TechCrunch agrees that “in the future we will see people interacting with the virtual world and real world in seamless, frictionless, and continuous ways, not bound by delineations of experience between VR, AR, and MR.”

Cathy Hackl (@CathyHackl) is an Emmy-nominated communicator turned virtual reality and augmented reality speaker and futuristic content creator. She’s also the founder of Latinos in VR/AR and one of the women leading the virtual revolution.