Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Where is XR headed?

Our experts Nonny de la Peña, Graeme Cox and Catherine Allen shed light on where they think AR, VR and mixed reality technology is headed.
AR, VR, XR, I should call it extended reality, they’re going to merge. And you’re going to use them for different things. Right now, because of the pandemic, I think virtual reality is really flourishing. People need to be taken to other places. They can’t really travel the streets. It’s nice to use AR as well to look at objects, and goods, and retail. Everything you buy, you’re going to look at it in some sort of volume, whether you just flip it through on your phone, or whether you actually spend the time and energy to put it onto your table, or on your floor, or whatever, that’s going to be very, very normal coming out of this.
But AR also is really great for like directions, when you’re on the street, these sort of things, or even telling the tales of what’s occurred at different street corners around the globe. With virtual reality, I think we’re just beginning to tap its power. With AR, we might be able to see initially some tabletop stories. But then we’re going to want to be able to go down there. So how are we going to do that? How we’re going to put ourselves down into the stories that interest us, the places, et cetera? So we’re going to kind of merge. We’re going to be putting them all into one thing. It’s not going to be a separate idea.
I’m wearing my Bose frames, which has my Bluetooth in them, and also my reading glasses, my far glasses. They darken to become my sunglasses. I can talk on the phone. I can listen to my music. We’re going to see glasses like this, where they’ll darken to become VR, whether they’re going to have AR availability to them. And I think that that’s for sure going to be the future. Since we’ve been in pandemic, and I’ve had this studio to myself here, I’ve been playing a lot more VR games. They’re really fun. And that part of it is really delightful that we’re going to see. This whole embodied future is just beginning.
And I think that people are recognising that it’s not going to go back, that this engagement with virtual spaces and the merging with our real spaces is just beginning. The two things that really excite me about the future of VR and the development path that the global tech industry is on is the rapidly increasing power of the VR headsets and the ability to deliver ever more realistic simulations with higher fidelity, higher quality graphics, interaction with more people, because I see VR as a social medium, not as an isolating medium. And the second is the growth and development of new input mechanisms, of which MTech effectively is one.
We’re using your visible facial expressions and emotional reactions as a way of providing input back into virtual reality. But I think the ones that are going to have the most direct impact on our interactions with VR are around haptics, so the ability to feel, to use your hands in a very naturalistic manner within simulated environments. The future of immersive media is really exciting. Nature is being brought into many of these virtual experiences in order to create a soothing effect, which can really help with anxiety. And seeing how that’s being used globally by various research teams with actual patients and to see the efficacy is fantastic.
So I’m excited to see how virtual reality can be used as part of healthcare and can create a lasting positive impact. Another trend is how immersive media is being used in enterprise and how by creating what’s called a digital twin of a process, a system, a machine, we can run scenarios. We can toy, we can play, we can explore. What happens if we did this? What happens if we changed this part of this process? How might that affect the end product? So we can play, we can test stuff with reality, without actually having to do it.
So there’s- not only could be fantastic for the economy in terms of cost saving, but also might lead to all sorts of future innovations, which are enabled by immersive- but are innovations in their own right. For years to come, we’re going to see more and more of this consumer expectation, that we know what’s possible now. And in industry terms, that gets called spatial computing. So rather than computing happening in representations in a rectangle, it becomes stimulative of space. And it could even be, and we’ve seen this in sci-fi, that that becomes our default way of experiencing data, is through physical space. The future of immersive media really is what we make it.
We’re in a wave now of technology adoption, where it really is on the cusp of going mainstream. But as I said, it matters what we do as a sector as to whether or not that actually happens. According to a recent Mintel study, about 1 in 10 households have a virtual reality headset in their home. Many, many people use augmented reality every day. They may not know that they’re doing it. Things like Snapchat filters, for example, are really common. So we’re using augmented reality at the moment. We’re using virtual reality at the moment.
But whether or not we’ll go from, say, 1 in 10 households, or 1 in 100 workplaces, to something that feels as commonplace as for television, that sort of screen, I don’t know. It really matters how much, right now as a sector, we do to ensure we get that product market fit between audience needs, a context for them to experience this technology in, and the product itself.

Our experts Nonny de la Peña, Graeme Cox and Catherine Allen shed light on where they think AR, VR and mixed reality technology is headed.

Have your say

Having listened to the experts, where do you think XR is headed?
This article is from the free online

Introduction to Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education