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XR Foundations: Designer

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What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

October 5, 2021

Step into the world of virtual reality (VR)

No really, put on the equipment and immerse yourself in the illusion that you’re in another world. That’s what VR is — a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way using special electronic equipment. But besides gaming and entertainment, what else can you do with VR? And is it here to stay?

Let’s take a look at the world of virtual reality and see what’s in store for this futuristic, larger-than-life technology.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

VR: The Equipment

It all starts with the headset. Among the most popular brands are the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive. VR headsets can either be mobile/standalone or tethered:

  • Mobile/standalone headsets are lens-equipped and can hold smartphones or other devices. Everything is built into the headset, and no external device is needed for processing, providing greater flexibility. They are generally less expensive, but much less powerful than tethered options.
  • Tethered headsets physically connect to separate computers or gaming systems through a cord, allowing for a much more immersive experience. They use external cameras or sensors to enable additional degrees of motion tracking. They also include two sets of hand controllers you can use to interact with your virtual surroundings.

Mobile and tethered VR headsets also differ in the degrees of freedom (DoF) they allow.

3-DoF headsets allow for rotational motion tracking, but not translational. This means the headset will register:

  • Looking left or right
  • Rotating the head up or down
  • Tilting the head left or right

6-DoF headsets allow for translational, as well as rotational motion tracking. In addition to tracking head movements, 6-DoF headsets can track the body’s movement:

  • Forward or backward
  • Laterally or vertically
  • Up or down

This allows for much more immersive VR experiences, giving the user freedom to explore environments and perform tasks.

Currently, some of the biggest kinks in VR include latency (how long it takes the technology to respond and match up to your movements) and subsequent simulator sickness (the queasy feeling you get from latency or your brain’s response to pixelated or blurry environments). While top of the line systems are better at protecting against these inaccuracies, designers and developers are hard at work to remove them across the board.

AR, VR, MR, XR — What’s the Difference?

VR is part of a full spectrum of real and virtual environments, each with its own applications. While VR allows users to interact with a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment in a seemingly real or physical way, AR, MR, and XR are slightly different:

Augmented reality (AR)

Source: Nintendo

Augmented reality is an immersive technology that superimposes a computer-generated image atop physical surfaces or objects in the real world when viewed by the user through an AR device like AR glass, HoloLens, smartphone, tablet, etc. You’ve probably experience AR on a number of apps already.


  • Pokemon Go
  • IKEA Furniture App
  • Google Pixel Star Wars Stickers

Mixed reality (MR)

Source: Microsoft

Mixed Reality brings together real world and digital elements. You interact with and manipulate both physical and virtual items and environments, using next-generation sensing and imaging technologies. Mixed Reality allows you to see and immerse yourself in the world around you even as you interact with a virtual environment using your own hands.


  • Microsoft HoloLens 2
  • Holograms
  • US Army synthetic training

Extended Reality (XR)

Source: HP

Encompasses the full range of these real and virtual environments, including AR, VR, and MR. XR takes the screen interface we’re used to and modifies it by either immersing you in the virtual environment (VR), adding to or augmenting it (AR), or both (MR). That means if you’ve played a VR video game or used an app featuring AR, you’ve already dabbled in XR.

What Can You Do With VR?

The world of VR is certainly entertaining — you can do everything from man a virtual sandwich shop to exercise with friends.

But there are a ton of even more meaningful applications from aiding in pain relief and PTSD to teaching and “telecommuting” to work. VR developers and designers can make a big impact by designing hardware and virtual environments that extend to more industries and solve bigger challenges.

Those innovators could very well include you. The best way to get started and make an impact in the VR industry? Seek out VR education. Designers and developers are increasingly needed to meet the demand of this growing industry. XR Foundations courses offer a way to get started without prerequisites — only a passion for technology and eye for innovation are needed.

With the right VR background, you not only have the means to enhance your career, but drive innovation in a booming field. As a VR developer or designer, you could be on the frontlines of the industry, paving the road for future generations of XR users.

If you’re interested in AR?

You need the best training available. XR Terra provides the most robust VR training with small class sizes, hands-on experience, and even career services to help you take action on the knowledge you acquire.

Get started today by enrolling in one of our available AR/VR programs to immerse yourself in the growing world of XR.

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