What is XR & what is its potential application to the mobile app market?
In the mobile app market, XR has the potential to change the way we engage with mobile apps, providing new and exciting ways for users to interact with digital content and information on their mobile devices.
In this article, we will take a closer look at XR and its potential applications in the mobile app market, exploring how it is being used today and what the future holds for this exciting technology, but first, we are going to start with the basics.
What is virtuality?
People often think that virtual experiences are not real experiences, but that is not true at all.
Virtual experiences are indeed real. The only difference is that some experiences happen in the physical world and others happen in a computer-mediated environment.
“Virtuality: Is the state of being brought about by being simulated using a computer”. 
Computer-mediated experiences & virtual experiences in XR
As stated above, computer-mediated experiences are real experiences that occur using some type of technology, such as buying goods online, playing video games, online learning, etc. Therefore, any type of action we perform through our mobile devices can be considered a computer-mediated experience, but it is not necessarily virtual.
In order for these experiences to be considered virtual, they need to use interfaces that enable both immediacy and hypermediacy.
These are two types of computational mediation:
- Hypermediacy – Interfaces that are fragmented with many widgets (“very visible” interfaces).
- Immediacy – Interfaces that make us feel as though we are directly experiencing a different world (“transparent” interfaces).
There are different kinds of virtual experiences, like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR). To cover all of these types of experiences and the simulation technologies that make them possible, we use the umbrella term XR, which stands for extended reality.
We need to understand XR simulation technologies as a medium of communication (interaction) that is used to express content between two or more entities (e.g. between two users and/or between users and devices), and according to Murray, J. H, XR technologies allow us to do it by using four different characteristics.
These four characteristics are the following:
- Procedural affordances – Executable rules that need to be followed to produce specific content.
- Participatory affordances – Users can manipulate content in order to produce different experiences.
- Encyclopedic affordances – The capacity to represent a large volume of information in different ways (text, images, videos, sounds, etc.).
- Spatial affordances – Navigable as a virtual space that users can move within.
With this in mind, we can design different apps that produce either immersive or more interactive experiences or even both.
XR technology essentials
All the virtual experiences or XR experiences use different tools and software, but all of them depend on 3D models or computer-generated imagery (CGI) applied to a certain extent.
Let’s analyze the relationship between these simulation technologies.
- VR (Virtual Reality) – Uses Head-Mounted-Display (HMD) devices. It blocks out the physical world and replaces it completely with CGI or 3D video footage.
- AR (Augmented Reality) – Uses mobile devices such as mobile phones or tablets. It projects CGI as an overlay onto the physical world.
- MR (Mixed Reality) – Uses Head-Mounted-Display (HMD) devices. It projects and integrates CGI into the physical world by handling obstructions.
Since we work with mobile apps at Shortcut, I will be focusing on AR experiences.
AR uses different tools/frameworks like Apple ARKit or Google ARCore among others. These tools are easy to use and not as expensive as others, but they can only be used on phones or tablets and they may not be as realistic as systems that use HMD devices.
Examples of AR experiences
These are some simple examples of AR experiences I have designed in the past for social events.
Application of XR across industries
The examples above are very simple but show some of the possibilities that exist. In fact, the possibilities are endless.
Let’s see some other examples:
Pokemon Go – This is an oldie but a goodie example of a creative (gaming) AR app.
IKEA Place – Another old example of a utilitarian AR app.
Complete Anatomy – This is a very good example of an educational AR app.
As you can see, there are many ways to use XR (AR) technology on mobile apps. To narrow down all these possibilities, let’s list some of the potential uses and the type of applications that can be created.
You can have a look at this link to check some of the best AR apps for mobile devices available today.
In conclusion, XR technologies have the potential to greatly impact the mobile app market and the way we interact with digital content and information.
With the ability to provide immersive and interactive virtual experiences, XR has the potential to revolutionize the mobile app industry and provide users with new and exciting ways to engage with digital content on their mobile devices.
As XR technologies continue to evolve and become more accessible, we can expect to see an increasing number of XR-powered mobile apps that offer innovative and engaging experiences. Whether it’s through virtual shopping, gaming, or educational experiences, XR technology has the potential to change the way we interact with our mobile devices and the world around us.
All illustrations by: Jesús González Torres
Use imagination as a destination!
Thanks for reading 😁
1. D Fox Harrell – Professor of Digital Media and Artificial Intelligence in the Comparative Media Studies Program and Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT.
2. Bolter, D. J., & Grusin, R. (1999), Remediation: Understanding new media. MIT Press.
3. Murray, J. H. (2011, Nov. 20). Four affordances [Blog post]. Janet H. Murray: Humanistic design for an emerging medium. https://inventingthemedium.com/four-affordances/