So the hip and cool term making its way around town is XR, otherwise known as Extended Reality. It comprises of a superset where all technologies are placed along the reality-virtuality continuum, as a mish-mash of lots of other acronyms in a party. In other words, it’s a catch-all term for immersive tech.

It is looking like we are progressing towards using the term more widely as well. And some people in the community don’t particularly like the term.

I’ll lay out my cards on the table: I don’t mind the term. As a descriptivist, a widely-accepted word can become legitimised provided that enough people understand what the term means. So if a large chunk of people use and understand the term, then I don’t see why it shouldn’t be used.

Why use XR?

There are many defenders out there who would agree with me. Dave Bradley of Steel Media is re-branding VR Connects to XR Connects form September, and he defends the change: “We’ve run successful VR Connects events in London in January and in San Francisco in June, but we feel it’s time to clarify how broad our remit is. We’ve always welcomed speakers and companies who have got something to say about augmented reality and mixed reality, but the catch-all term VR wasn’t really representing them.

“Many of our clients and guests – not to mention the great dev studios who’ve submitted games to the VR Indie Pitch – have asked us if we’ll cover all the variations of VR, 360-degree video, AR, MR and so on, and of course we will. But that’s a mouthful to articulate every time! So after visiting a number of north American events in 2017 and asking people’s opinions, we’ve settled on the term XR to refer to all immersive media.”

At the same time… people don’t know what it means. When I asked about XR, a tonne of people were not actually sure what it means. At the moment, it’s more people who are invested in the immersive community who are aware it exists – at least, based in my little, VR-obsessed social bubble, so take that as you will.

“Buggery shit biscuits. Take your terminology and stick it”
– Bertie Millis, Virtual Umbrella

Doug Champion, CCO of Visionary Artists, argues that XR has become a misunderstood term: “XR and xR are now being defined as two different things. It’s absurd. I use the term xR in the algebraic sense, meaning x means any letter, i.e. VR , AR, MR, etc… but now it seems people are using XR as “extended reality” which seems to serve as a further nebulous term for MR.

“It’s really nonsensical at this point, but I’m going to still use XR as an umbrella term for simulated reality technologies.”

On a more personal interpretation, I think it is fine. XR will slowly become more accepted, and used, and in some cases abused. Since it is being used by so many different people in so many different contexts, I do not feel that it should be changed or even treated as lesser; it’s fine. Adequate. Serves its purpose.

I still have a soft spot for Immersive Reality – and  I plan to use it in the future – but for now, I find XR to be harmless.

Fight me.

Tom Ffiske
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