By: Lauren Perrodin

The augmented world is growing. Instead of simulating flights, zombie attacks or car racing, users can dive deeper into a new city, attempt surgery for the first time and so much more. Because of a slew of upgrades and changes, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) all come together under a single umbrella term known as extended reality (XR), a catchall word.

Up until recently, XR was associated almost exclusively with the gaming industry. We’ll dive deeper into what industries have adopted this technology, which ones could benefit and the potential outcomes.

What industries use XR?

Have you ever changed the color of your room or bought new furniture and tested them out with a try-before-you-buy kiosk at the store? These concepts are considered XR. Companies are already adopting this tool to help support business initiatives, reduce costs and improve the customer experience.

The film industry has taken a huge leap in VR use as well. Like the household favorite, The Mandalorian, incorporated XR technology onto their set. The use here was to help the actors immerse themselves into a scene more effectively. Instead of standing in front of a green screen, actors could stand inside each intergalactic scene, interact with it and make the final product seem more real.

But XR tech takes a step even further with interactive art installations. Using an Oculus headset and signing into your MetaQuest account, you can create immersive art in a game called Tilt Brush, by Meta.

Is there hope for remote teams to join the XR train? Deloitte, the leading global provider of professional services, says yes! In 2021, Deloitte tested with their teams by simply reviewing a PowerPoint presentation. Half of the team joined on their laptop and the other half joined using a VR headset. They found that the headset allowed for more focus, the ability to read the room and interaction. However, the laptop is still more inclusive until XR becomes commonplace.

What’s more, some medical fields have adopted XR as well. George Washington University Hospital has introduced VR headsets to educate patients on surgery options. In 2019, Harvard Business Review noted that VR headsets helped train surgeons on a more standardized basis rather than waiting for patients to come in so they can learn. Similarly, the University of Connecticut worked using Oculus to help train surgery residents as well. They found that those who used the headset learned 570% faster than those who stuck to a traditional learning approach.

XR Technology Uses Across Industries

XR has a lot of potential to benefit nearly every industry in the same way the cell phone and data analytics have today. We met up with UCR Library's Innovative Media Librarian, Alvaro Alvarez, for his insight into what the potential for XR could be in education.

He helped develop educational programming in what is now known as the Creat’R lab, a space where students can safely put together mixed media projects. The Creat’R lab was launched just before COVID-19 lockdowns and allowed students to interact online and remain safe from the virus.

XR tech allowed students to enter a virtual rendition of the library and meet the innovative library staff to ask questions.

“We had an event where people could join through Mozilla and use their avatar [or online character]. They could walk around and were able to talk to me and ask the Makerspace Services coordinators questions about the space and the services,” says Alvaro.

Makerspace is the area in which students can put their creative minds to the test. The entire UCR community is welcome to come in, ask an expert for consultation on their project and get to work. The Creat’R lab offers:

  • 3D printers.
  • 3D scanners and associated software.
  • Basic hand tools.
  • XR.

They got a grant through META which resulted in 20 Oculus Quest Two headsets. This has helped students explore what XR can really do for their projects and have immersive experiences around the world. For example, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, language students had the chance to explore Greece and Italy virtually.

“I feel like the kids growing up now are always on their phone or some kind of device [anyway],” says Alvaro, “so [XR] creates a more interactive way to learn and do things.”

What’s next?

Want to get in on the future of XR? You can join the UCR University Extension Circuit Stream online course — the very course that changed everything for Alvaro. “The instructor was really helpful and knowledgeable and he showed us how to use certain programs.” Toolkits are available to make simulations easy to understand and develop on your own.