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Different kinds of extended reality

In this video Catherine Allen, CEO of Limina Immersive explains different types of extended reality.
I’m Catherine Allen, and I’m the founder and CEO of a company called Limina Immersive. In the UK, I guess we’re one of the leaders in bringing virtual reality to broader audiences. So rather than seeing it as just something that can be done in a home, we meet audiences in the middle and we frame it as an arts, a cultural experience, something you might do on part of a night out. So we’ve had our own virtual reality theatre space based in Bristol. But we’ve also gone on tour, for instance, most recently with our Cirque du Soleil virtual reality experience.
So whilst my career in the last few years has been very much focused around audiences, understanding what audiences want, curation, actually before that, I was a virtual reality producer and an exec producer at the BBC. And that’s where I really learned about production and how to make VR experiences. So yeah, my experience spans both production and understanding VR from an audience’s perspective.
All of immersive realities, as I call them- or you could say extended reality, so augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality- they’re all about taking something from someone or a group of people’s imagination, bottling them, and putting them somewhere else. So that means, for instance, that I may conjure up the idea of a dragon here in my living room. And through, say, augmented reality, I could develop a dragon experience app, where somebody could put that dragon in their own living room. So it’s porting elements or a whole reality from one person’s experience or a group of people’s experiences to another. And the great thing about technology is, that can be scaled.
So it can be got to thousands, maybe millions of people can share that reality, can experience it. And something that all three have in common, as well- so augmented, mixed, and virtual reality- is they involve simulation. So rather than something that’s just representing through symbols an experience- say many novels in the third person, for instance- it’s simulating that experience directly. It really does feel like it’s happening to you. And so you’ve got that sense of immediacy, which is, I think, a really important part of what makes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality different, is you get that feeling, I’m there, I’m doing this.
Augmented reality is where an element of reality- lets say a dragon- could be ported into someone’s existing reality. So I see that augmenting my world, my existing world around me. So it could be through a mobile phone, through the screen, for instance. Or it could be through some augmented reality glasses. You’ve got virtual reality, which takes you fully into those worlds, into a different world. It could be a different time. It could be a different place. It’s a bit like a time capsule, even you could say, or some sort of spaceship that just takes you and drops you somewhere else.
And then mixed reality, probably the easiest way to say it, a mixture of the two- it can fade between different worlds. It could go from virtual reality one minute to augmented reality the next. It can incorporate elements of a world that you’re in, but then put that into a virtual space. So I think of mixed reality as like the hybrid.
One of the keys to success to creating a great virtual, augmented, or mixed reality experience is understanding that your audience member is not just a viewer, they’re a participant. They’re bringing their own reality or their own sense of self to that. And in that way, It’s much more of a co-creation, really, between you and your audience member. If you remember that and you’re kind of willing to let go of it, think about agency and how you may be used to- if you’ve come from, say, a filmmaking background, you might be used to having quite a lot of agency, over mood, tempo, how your audience member’s feeling.
In virtual reality, for instance, you’ve really got to let go a bit, because you have to allow that space for the audience member to feel like this is their own experience. This is not something that they saw. This is something that they did. I’ll give you some examples of some VR experiences. One is the Cirque du Soleil virtual reality app, which is available on Oculus Go, Oculus Rift. That you get onstage with Cirque du Soleil and you experience their work, as if you’re there with them. It’s an incredible closeup view of the Cirque du Soleil shows. One of reasons why I love it is because audiences love it. We’ve toured it.
We’ve licenced the experience, meaning that we’ve taken it to all sorts of different venues. We’ve got all sorts of different feedback from audiences. And I know it’s something that audiences want. It has a place in people’s lives. It can translate into something that works in location, as we call it. And then another experience that I would recommend to check out is David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef. There, it really shows what VR can do that other mediums can’t. You can go virtually underwater with David Attenborough in a submersible and see the Great Barrier Reef. He points out things to you. He points out different fish. He points out how the reef works.
You get that sense of intimacy and presence, that you’re there with Sir Attenborough. But also, you get the feeling that you just could not do this in real life. So it ticks many boxes for what makes a great immersive experience.

Catherine Allen is Co-founder and CEO of Limina Immersive, a UK company that specialises in immersive media and bringing extended reality experiences to wider audiences.

In this video, Catherine introduces you to some of the core features of extended reality and explains the differences between augmented, virtual and mixed reality experiences.

We will also gain insight on what makes this technology impactful and why creators need to think about their audience.

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Introduction to Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

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