What is XR and How Do I Get It?

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Everyone is talking about the new, intriguing technology known as XR. But what does XR actually entail, and when can this technology be used? We’ll examine how XR differs from AR and VR and how it will work with both new hardware and the gear you already have.

Cross reality, often known as extended reality, is a general phrase for a number of distinct yet connected technologies. Similar abbreviations like VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), and MR are combined (mixed reality). Knowing that information makes understanding XR much easier.

We’ll swiftly walk you through the XR tech jargon bog down below. Fast comparisons to VR, AR, and MR will be shown, along with XR demonstrations. You’ll feel more in control of your own reality when it comes to this new phrase after reading this overview.

Describe XR.

To put it simply, XR is “reality-plus” technology that uses any type of display. VR + AR equals XR.

Extended reality, sometimes known as XR, is a catch-all phrase covering VR, AR, and MR. All XR technology alters the human-to-PC screen interaction, either by (1) submerging you in a virtual world (VR), (2) enhancing or augmenting the user’s surroundings (AR), or (3) doing both of those things (MR).

The phrase “XR” has been in use for many years. When Charles Wyckoff applied for a patent for his silver-halide “XR” film in the 1960s, which was designed to capture extraordinarily intense light events like nuclear explosions, it became the first instance of it.

The phrase has gained popularity more lately as device manufacturers struggle to adequately characterise the many display enhancements they’re using. Examples include putting a device (such as a smartphone display or headgear) directly in front of the user’s eyes to immerse them in the action or placing game characters in actual environments, as in the well-known Pokémon Go app (AR).

In the realm of video games, VR is exploding.

How XR Technology Works

There’s really no need to ask “is my laptop XR” or “can I get an XR phone” because XR is a catch-all phrase. This is so because “XR devices” are anything that uses AR, VR, or MR technology. Therefore, you have already used XR technology if you have used Google Maps to travel or played a VR game like Star Wars: Squadrons or Half-Life: Alyx.

The usage of the phrase in relation to XR technology causes confusion. Similar to previous catch-all phrases like “digital” or “natural,” there is currently something of a marketing gold rush going on as every major tech company scrambles to brand their most recent products with the buzzword.

VR and XR

Extended reality (ER) includes virtual reality (VR) (XR). When using a VR device, the user’s whole field of view is occupied by the display, creating an immersive computing or gaming experience. Sometimes, all it takes to do this is a headset that your smartphone can fit inside, allowing the screen to be placed around an inch away from the viewer’s eyes.

However, not all XR is VR, even though all VR is. For instance, augmented reality (AR) may use the camera on your phone to project game characters onto the screen of your smartphone, giving the impression that they are physically present in the space where you are. That is AR, XR, and AR, but that is not VR.

Want to learn more? See What’s the difference between AR and VR? in our guide.

AR vs. XR

A subset of XR is AR. A Pokémon Go avatar could appear in your living room, a tiger could appear in a Google search, or you could add instructional markup to your surroundings in a workplace or historical location using augmented reality (AR).

Yet again, not all XR is AR, even yet all AR is XR. In other words, you could use your phone with a VR headset to play a video game. That is both VR and XR. But since there isn’t an “augmented” piece of the pie, it isn’t AR. Nothing from the digital world is being superimposed over a display of your surroundings.

Check out our list of the top 7 amazing AR experiences for additional examples.

MR and XR

MR, or “mixed reality,” is a fusion of the two most prominent XR technologies: VR and AR. For clarity, VR stands for immersion, as in using a smartphone screen in a headset to completely immerse yourself in gaming. Augmentation is what happens when you use an app to overlay your phone’s display with a digital tiger in your living room. This is an example of AR.

Although the terms AR and MR are sometimes used interchangeably, MR is technically a combination of both VR and AR. But there is a definite distinction between MR and XR. In other words, all XR is not MR, and vice versa. A VR video game is XR but not MR, whereas a smartphone tape measure app is both MR and XR.

With our top HP VR-ready laptops and these 3 HP VR-ready desktops, get a head start on XR technology.

Example XR

Applications for XR are already appearing everywhere, including in manufacturing, retail, human resources, and gaming. We already utilise AR, VR, and MR in our daily lives, and more applications for these technologies are on the horizon. These 5 XR examples only scratch the surface of possible applications for the technology.


The use of immersive technologies in try-before-you-buy experiences has already benefited businesses. For instance, you can see how a couch will truly fit in your living room if you buy for one online. XR technology is being used by some merchants to give you a sneak peek of the actual product. This reduces returns and even outperforms the experience of shopping in a physical store.

Additionally, XR is helping the manufacturing sector. In the near future, maintenance teams will design plant walkthroughs that will make equipment that need maintenance stand out in vivid red or orange. AR can demonstrate how new industrial layouts will look before they are set up. XR hands-on training can provide detailed virtual experiences in actual settings.


A VR game called Star Wars: Squadrons lets you use a headset to control an X-Wing or TIE Fighter, fulfilling one of your most vivid childhood fantasies. Trover Saves the Universe, Half-Life: Alyx, and No Man’s Sky are some further popular XR games. One of the most popular XR games ever created, Pokémon Go, places amiable little “pocket monsters” in your living room and neighbourhood. You’ve undoubtedly already played it.


Both pricey equipment like the Oculus Rift and inexpensive technology like Google Cardboard are introducing XR technology into our homes and workplaces. That simple VR device fastens your smartphone to your face. The PSVR from Playstation, which features well-known games like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, Tetris Effect, and Beat Saber, is another noteworthy option.

The latest generation of XR gadgets includes AR displays like the Microsoft HoloLens 2, VR headsets like the HP Reverb G2 VR, and laptops like the HP OMEN. These gadgets can track your hand and eye movements to create a seamless transition between the virtual and actual worlds.


One XR app that you almost certainly already use frequently is Google Maps. Both street view and the satellite view you can use for navigation are technically XR. Every time you watch an NFL game and the bright yellow first-down line appears on the screen, you also use XR. In actuality, there isn’t anything like that. It’s also XR when someone uses a virtual background or a “I’m not a cat” filter during a Zoom call.

Future applications for XR

Get ready for XR to significantly alter your life over the next few years. You’ll notice it in healthcare as well as in sports (such as golf analysis and recommendations) (showing your path through the hospital to the X-ray department with blinking arrows). Virtual field trips in education will extend young people’s horizons in novel, fascinating ways. You’ll even use augmented reality (AR) maps to find the items you’re looking for in tomorrow’s brick-and-mortar businesses.

In conclusion, XR is a relatively recent buzzword in the IT industry. XR is a catch-all phrase that encompasses VR, AR, and MR. In a nutshell, XR technology is any technology that enhances your display by making it more immersive or by enabling it to interact in some manner with your physical surroundings. And it is genuinely altering the future.

Knowledgeable author: Contributing author for HP® Tech Takes is Tom Gerencer. Tom is a member of the ASJA, a career specialist for Zety.com, and a consistent contributor to Boys’ Life and Scouting. Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many other publications have featured his work.