Monday, April 12, 2021
A HISTORY OF THE TERM EXTENDED REALITY (XR)
A HISTORY OF THE TERM
The idea behind altered reality has been around for a long time. Ancient Civilizations have used mind-bending substances more or less forever. Even wild animals have been known to discover sources of intoxication.
Early in the development of photography, there were 3D image viewers (stereopticons).
In the sixties, LSD and weed became popular, with Timothy Leary a fervent advocate, sparking interest in altered reality. The Apple 2+ in June 1977 was the first computer that had a programmable color video screen with decent resolution. The idea of computer graphics was immediate.
In 1992, the film LAWNMOWER MAN featured a reasonably modern representation of what Virtual Reality might look like (except for the “horror” movie parts). In 2009, AVATAR (3D IMAX version) illustrated the concept of the real person in the real world and the Avatar in the Virtual World. While high-end, very $$$, devices were possible (professional flight simulators for example), and conceptual models and film simulations could be created, actually building consumer XR devices and commercially viable XR content was not yet possible with the Internet and display devices available then.
In the aftermath of the Oculus KickStarter in 2012, Google Glass in 2013, and the evolution of the 2010 Kinect to the announcement of the HoloLens, there was a lot of talk of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR), and a lot of confusion. The idea of using x to represent V, A, or M in a “spectrum” from VR to AR to MR (ie xR) began to make sense to me and other people.
But it seemed to me that there was more than just AR, VR and MR that were part of the same technology. I realized several related ideas.
RR – Real Reality is not what it seems. For example, we do not live in a 3-Dimensional Euclidean world. There are protons and electrons that have spin ½. That can’t happen with normal rotations in everyday space. More deeply, our knowledge of the world comes entirely from how our brain interprets the impressions that come through our senses. (That includes the things people say; the books we read; the things we touch; the instruments we use or learn about.) So, what we learn about reality – and thus our conception of reality -- is increased and extended by the information we get.
It seemed a hard decision whether to call XR “eXpanded Reality” or “eXtended Reality”. I finally concluded that “expanded” suggests our reality is growing sort of uniformly, while “extended” could be kind of spikey. And our reality was being extended in random directions, from time to time.
Also, what was extending reality was not just the AR, VR and MR headsets, but all the digital technology that was being powered by the exponential growth of transistors in a chip (Moore’s Law) and that meant storage, networking, digital sensors like the Internet of Things (IoT), and advances in computing, like AI.
So, I wrote about this in QPORIT, and I talked about it at an NYVR Meetup in 2015. Someone at the Meetup then created a Wikipedia Page for “Extended Reality” (and did not mention my article)! The article in Wikipedia refers to Paul Milgram, but gives no reference before 2016. Other people have claimed to have used the term earlier, but as far as I know, the term eXtended Reality was not ever used in print, certainly not in this sense of going beyond AR, VR and MR before my article:
XR - EXTENDED REALITY (XR= VR +AR + MR + ...) SOME VARIATIONS ON REALITY- September 16, 2015
I have been using the term ever since. It has been used in many articles in QPORIT. I'm currently working on building a webXR version of QPORIT. I created the NYXR Meetup. I'm writing a book now about XR.
As the notion continued to develop, more became clear: even the Content that is created with this technology extends our reality, as do the Issues surrounding technology: the possibilities and the problems. In fact, our reality also can, and has been, extended by non-digital, analog technologies: For example, fire, the wheel, the telescope, and paper.
Here's more about the meetup:
The one thing most adverse to extending our reality is lies.