VR vs XR — a short comparison

Walter Code
4 min readJul 12, 2022

Virtual Reality (VR), and Extended Reality (XR) are seemingly the same thing, yet fundamentally different.

Virtual reality is a technology that is responsible for the creation of a digital environment that is fully immersive. During a VR experience, the real-world environment is entirely blocked out.

VR experiences are located at the fully virtual extreme of the virtuality continuum. For something that is only “virtual”, it is surprising to see how the VR experiences generate true emotional responses, and a lot of people struggle to comprehend this.

Given the fact that humans consider reality from the information they gather using their senses, and with VR taking advantage of visual and auditory systems, it is easy to see how virtual reality may confuse you even when you’re well aware that it is only a digital experience.

To explain how real it all feels, let’s mention that VR is being used to treat anxiety disorders such as phobias, in a completely safe manner at that!

Individuals are exposed to their fears, insects for example, and even though the experience is completely digital, they are as real as it gets for the carrier of the VR experience. Exposure therapy has already been confirmed as a successful solution to phobias, and virtual reality only made it more available to people with phobias.

One of our projects, Virotea, is based around using VR to provide seemingly real experiences of travel and similar real-world activities to the elderly and the disabled, once again showcasing one of the usefulness of VR.

XR, on the other hand, is an umbrella term that covers any sort of technology that changes reality by adding digital elements to the real-world environment to any extent, merging the physical and the digital world.

If a VR experience is “going” into a world filled with insects to stimulate exposure therapy, XR would be “putting” a spider in whatever environment you are in, for example.

It extends your reality, in a way that allows you to place digital elements into your imminent environment, once again erasing the lines between realities. This allows for virtual interaction with objects, in what feels like the real world.

XR includes all of AR(augmented reality), MR(mixed reality), VR(virtual reality), and any other technology that is situated at any point of the virtuality continuum.

Let’s say you have created a model of a house, and you would like to get a feel for it even before it is built. Put on your VR headset and bring that model into your world thanks to XR, walk through the house, look at the ceiling, and the walls, and get a feel for the furniture inside…

Imagine, for example, that your kids have a chance to visualize the topics they learn about in their history classes. Having a chance to connect the stories, the theory about a subject, with the visual cues such an event would leave would create much more impactful memories, making sure that the knowledge transfer isn’t temporary.

Just imagine being able to see dinosaurs in an environment you’re used to. Or Napoleon riding his horse, however short he was. Why not go on the trip Columbus went on when learning about his discoveries?

XR has the potential to be the next step in bringing these events, and science in general, closer to all of us.

Having fun, learning about geography, playing video games, experiencing movies, social interaction — these and many more real-life experiences may be “taken to the next level” with the use of VR and XR, and with more and more emerging technologies, the potential that this industry has yet to reach is inspiring and we look forward to it!

What do you think of VR and XR?
Where else do you see it being used?

Reach out to us and share your enthusiasm about this ever-growing subject!