Extended Reality: Life Beyond Gaming?

Extended Reality: Life Beyond Gaming?

Extended Reality (XR) has been causing quite a stir in the global gaming industry in recent years. This transformative technology encompasses innovations like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to deliver fully immersive, unique experiences. Given the cutting-edge nature of this tech, it’s naturally found the perfect partner in the gaming industry, which has long stood at the forefront of innovation. But, does XR have any utility outside the gaming and digital entertainment sectors? 

Let’s find out! 

Extended Reality at a Glance

  • Extended Reality (XR) encompasses virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies.
  • VR immerses users in entirely digital environments, often through specialised headsets.
  • AR overlays digital content onto the real world, enhancing users’ perception of their surroundings through devices like smartphones or smart glasses.
  • MR merges virtual and physical environments, allowing digital objects to interact with their surroundings and enabling the seamless integration of the virtual with the real world.

The Role of XR in Gaming

Unsurprisingly, the gaming industry has become one of the early adopters of XR. Augmented Reality was the first sector to break through into mainstream gaming when, in 2016, Nintendo released Pokémon Go for mobile devices. This groundbreaking game fused AR with GPS technology to enable players to track and catch Pokémon in an array of real-life environments. 

Since then, a number of games have followed suit including Ghostbusters Afterlife scARe, which is built with ARCore technology, and Walking Dead: Our World —a geolocation/AR Game. 

Despite its promise, Virtual Reality, on the other hand, has been a lot slower on the uptake in gaming sectors. The industry has been discussing the potential of VR to revolutionise the gaming industry for several years now, with major game development studios and even online poker operators putting out virtual reality games. For instance, during the winter of 2018, digital poker specialists PokerStars released PokerStars VR, which was specifically designed to be played on devices including Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The game has since evolved into Vegas Infinite, with players now being able to access it through the Steam marketplace. It even offers a non-VR and VR mode, making it accessible to a wider range of gamers. 

However, despite the appeal of a game like Vegas Infinite, because of the higher prices of VR-ready gaming equipment and the production costs associated with developing games suitable for the medium, the market just hasn’t been as popular as AR. All that’s started to change more recently, though, with the arrival of the Metaverse on the scene. In fact, we can thank metaverses for popularising Mixed Reality, which combines elements of both VR and AR, allowing digital and physical objects to interact in real time. When applied to metaverse games, XR technology fully immerses players into gaming environments, facilitating the development of interconnected virtual spaces where users can game, socialise, explore, and even create. 

Extended Reality Applications Outside the Gaming Industry 

While gaming has been one of the first Big Tech industries to both embrace and further the development of extended reality, it does have a range of applications outside virtual entertainment. The technology has the potential to transform a wide variety of industries and global sectors, from healthcare to architecture. 

Transforming Healthcare 

XR tech has a number of use cases in the healthcare sector, ranging from training right the way through to patient care. Medical students can use the tech to practice surgical procedures in realistic virtual environments, enabling them to refine their skills in a risk-free setting. Even during real-life surgical settings, XR can provide surgeons with precise simulations in which to plan out complex surgeries and receive real-time guidance during procedures. The benefits of this will include enhancing surgical accuracy, improving the efficiency of operating theatres, and, most crucially, helping minimise the risk of potential complications. 

Optimising Manufacturing and Engineering

There are plenty of opportunities for XR integration in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, which would streamline product design, prototyping, and maintenance processes. VR-based simulations allow engineers to visualise and optimise the most complex processes, identifying any troubleshooting potential design flaws before beginning production. The repair process can also be improved by AR, with virtual instruction overlays on equipment facilitating speedy repairs and troubleshooting. 

Innovation in Architecture

In architecture and design, XR technologies can impact both the design process and client engagement. Architects could create virtual models of buildings and urban spaces, allowing clients to experience designs in immersive VR environments. Interior designers can incorporate AR overlays onto physical spaces, showcasing virtual furnishings and decor ideas in real time. Plus by integrating XR into project management, firms can streamline communication between architects, clients, and stakeholders, accelerating decision-making processes as a result.

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