Extended Reality: Definition and Meaning

17 Ottobre 2022

Extended/Cross Reality (XR) and its benefits

The use of wearable devices is increasingly widespread in the Industry 4.0 sector. These technologies are linked to the spread of extended reality (XR), also known as cross reality, namely any system that expands the real world and combines it with integrated virtual elements.

The cross-reality or extended reality category also includes all immersive technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality. This rapidly expanding market is able to offer significant benefits in terms of productivity, efficiency and safety, especially in the field of assisted reality and headsets.

What is cross-reality or extended-reality technology?

Extended reality is a technology that allows you to interact with a virtually augmented world. There are currently three forms of cross-reality, all of which share some elements but also have specific characteristics.

  • Virtual reality (VR) is an environment produced entirely by a computer and can be accessed through a head-mounted display. The user does not perceive the real surrounding environment during immersion in the virtual world – the closed system allows them to interact fully with a wholly virtualised location.
  • Mixed reality (MR) is a highly complex hybrid reality, a completely new environment created by integrating augmented reality and virtual reality. In this case, it is possible to interact simultaneously with the real and virtual worlds using a special MR headset and a powerful processor, with physical objects able to affect digital elements.
  • Augmented reality (AR) is a technology capable of combining virtual elements with information from the real world, effectively expanding the physical environment with objects and digital content such as text and images. The user’s focus remains on the physical world, where minimal interaction with virtual objects inserted within the actual context becomes possible.

What is assisted reality?

Assisted reality (aR) is an extended or cross-reality technology that allows real-world information to be superimposed onto what the operator can see. This experience is achieved through special headsets or wearable devices combined with a display and aR software.

This technology has long been used in military settings and is currently widely used in industry. Assisted reality solutions make it possible to facilitate all kinds of operations, including maintenance and inspection, providing the operator with all the information they need through the wearable device.

For example, a technician who has to repair a problematic environment, where technical consulting documentation would be challenging, can read the information they need directly from the display in the device they are wearing on their head. This leaves them to work with both hands-frees, operating in a safer and more efficient way.

Assisted reality vs augmented reality

Assisted reality and augmented reality are two different technologies, although both can be used in the industrial sector. While aR provides relevant virtual elements within a real scenario, AR inserts computer-generated digital content into the physical environment to make the experience interactive.

While aR and AR are both extended reality solutions, assisted reality is a more effective tool for remote access and remains more practical for certain complex industrial applications. Whatever the case, both can offer important benefits in production settings by improving the quality standards of the processes.

In particular, modern assisted reality technologies make it possible to:

  • provide remote assistance;
  • carry out remote maintenance:
  • audit and inspect remotely;
  • perform remote quality control;
  • manage training remotely;
  • execute remote installation and testing;
  • intervene remotely in an emergency.

How an assisted reality visor works

An assisted reality system is quite simple and intuitive to operate. The field operator is connected to experts remotely through the wearable device, with the support of specific aR software and by using the visor, video camera and microphone to communicate remotely with the experts.

At this point the experts can see everything the operator sees in real-time, allowing them to guide technicians through resources, images and annotations. Assisted reality solutions make it possible to overcome temporal and physical barriers, through increasingly hybrid technology with the promise of even more significant potential thanks to the introduction of 5G networks.

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