Extended Reality (XR)

Your constantly-updated definition of Extended Reality (XR) and collection of topical content and literature

What is Extended Reality (XR)?

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for any technology that alters reality by adding digital elements to the physical or real-world environment to any extent and includes, but is not limited to, augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR).

Any new technology that blends the physical and virtual world will also be categorized as XR. The “X” in XR stands for any variable—any letter of the alphabet—that may be used in the future for such technologies.

Three circles that overlap. From left to right: augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality. A big circle representing extended reality encompasses all the other circles.

The term XR includes AR, MR, VR, and any technology that blends the physical and the digital world.

© Laia Tremosa and the Interaction Design Foundation


Therefore, the term extended reality does not refer to any specific technology; it includes any existing or new technologies that may be created in the future that alter reality, either by blending the digital and the physical world or by creating a fully virtual environment.

User Experience (UX) Design for Extended Reality

UX design for XR experiences vastly differs from traditional UX design. UX for XR is not screen-bound and needs to take into consideration 3D spaces and the safety and physical comfort of the user. Although there are not a set of standardized guidelines yet, there are some proposed frameworks to set the bases for UX designers. The study Exploring User Experience Guidelines for Designing HMD Extended Reality Applications by the University of Cagliari (Vi, 2022) proposes the following guidelines:

  • Organize the spatial environment to improve efficiency.

  • Create flexible interactions and environments.

  • Prioritize users’ comfort.

  • Do not overwhelm the user.

  • Design around hardware capabilities and limitations.

  • Use cues to help users through their experience.

  • Create a compelling XR experience.

  • Build upon real-world knowledge.

  • Allow users to feel in control of the experience.

  • Allow for trial and error.

In the book UX for XR, Cornel Hillmann suggests that object-oriented UX methodology (OOUX) might be a good approach to solve design problems in the XR world. A typical UX process starts with user research and user flows and progresses to wireframes and mockups; therefore, it usually defines flows, interactions and features before defining the objects. OOUX breaks down the complexity of a design problem by focusing on the core content—the objects—first and then assigning actions to these objects. For example, using the OOUX design process, you would first focus on the button itself, and then you would assign an action to it. This approach has typically four phases:

  • Discover objects.

  • Define objects.

  • Establish relationships.

  • Force rank objects.

However, many more studies and research are needed to establish common standards and best practices for UX for XR.    

Learn More about Extended Reality

Learn how to design your own XR experiences with our course: How to Design for Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Watch the How To Influence Behavior Through Virtual Reality Narratives on-demand Master Class by VR pioneer Mel Slater.

To find out more about temptative guidelines for UX design in XR, read this paper: Vi, S. (2022). Exploring User Experience Guidelines for Designing HMD Extended Reality Applications. 

For inspiring insights about UX for XR, read the book UX for XR by Cornel Hillmann.


Literature on Extended Reality (XR)

Here’s the entire UX literature on Extended Reality (XR) by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Extended Reality (XR)

Take a deep dive into Extended Reality (XR) with our course Design Thinking: The Ultimate Guide .

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford d.school, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

Design Thinking is not exclusive to designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering and business have practiced it. So, why call it Design Thinking? Well, that’s because design work processes help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, businesses, countries and lives. And that’s what makes it so special.

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking. In fact, this course also includes exclusive video content that we've produced in partnership with design leaders like Alan Dix, William Hudson and Frank Spillers!

This course contains a series of practical exercises that build on one another to create a complete design thinking project. The exercises are optional, but you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience with the methods you encounter in this course if you complete them, because they will teach you to take your first steps as a design thinking practitioner. What’s equally important is you can use your work as a case study for your portfolio to showcase your abilities to future employers! A portfolio is essential if you want to step into or move ahead in a career in the world of human-centered design.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

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