Immersive Experiences

An immersive experience can include a wide range of technologies including 360 images and video, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). There is considerable overlap in these definitions so we often use the terms Mixed Reality (MR) or eXtended Reality (XR) to cover the entire range of possibilities.

This guide is intended to present a few examples of these technologies to give you an idea of what each one is and what it looks like. See Penn State’s IMEX Lab for many more examples and resources.

360° Images and Video

360° images and video are captured by special cameras with 2 or more lenses to capture the entire surroundings in every direction at once. These can then viewed from a computer, mobile device or VR headsets. When viewed on a computer the viewer can drag the image around to look in any direction, when consumed in a headset the viewer gets a much more immersive experience and can simply look around. 360° video has been used to create full length movies and documentaries and 360° images are often combined with text and other media to create virtual tours of specific locations. These types of videos and experiences are relatively easy to make with inexpensive equipment and don’t require extensive technical expertise. A simple interactive experience or virtual tour can easily be created using free tools such as Roundme and Kinghtlab’s Scene VR.


Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality generally adds a layer of digitally created media over the real world. Experiences can include pop up windows with more information about a place or object or place an item in your environment such as furniture, animals or art works. Usually a mobile device is used to view the content. The phone’s camera is the lens through which you can see the rea world as well as the digital layers. Some can also be viewed using simple VR headset such as Google Cardboard.


Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality generally refers to fully created digital worlds. These are the most complex and challenging environments to build since every item must be created before it can be viewed or manipulated. Some experiences can be viewed on a computer or mobile device but are generally designed for consumption in a VR headset.