Thursday, June 20, 2024
Eaton's insights offer invaluable guidance for anyone interested in navigating the burgeoning landscape of XR technology, from novices to seasoned professionals, and even business and government leaders looking to integrate XR into their operations.
Recently Annie Eaton, the author of The Extended Reality Blueprint: Demystifying the AR/VR Production Process joined me on The Business of Government Hour. We discussed her recent book and our conversation provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of extended reality (XR) and its components, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). We explored both the transformative potential and the practical hurdles of AR/VR technology.

Eaton's insights offer invaluable guidance for anyone interested in navigating the burgeoning landscape of XR technology, from novices to seasoned professionals, and even business and government leaders looking to integrate XR into their operations.

Here’s a detailed look into the key insights from our discussion.

What is Extended Reality (XR)?

Annie Eaton begins by defining extended reality as an umbrella term that includes AR and VR.

  • Virtual Reality (VR): In VR, users are immersed in a fully digital environment using headsets that replace their physical surroundings with 3D-generated spaces. These environments can be used for entertainment, training, or interactive experiences.

  • Augmented Reality (AR): AR overlays digital content onto the physical world, typically viewed through devices like smartphones, tablets, or wearable glasses. This integration enhances the real-world experience by adding interactive elements.

Eaton explains that XR serves as a catch-all term to describe these immersive technologies, which also includes concepts like mixed reality (MR) and spatial computing. This terminology helps to unify the various ways digital and physical realms can be blended, broadening the scope and application of these technologies.

The XR Production Process

Eaton provides a structured overview of the XR production process in her book, which is crucial for understanding how to bring an XR project to life. The process includes:

  1. Use Case Development: The foundational step is identifying a problem that XR can effectively address. Not every problem requires an XR solution, so this phase is crucial for aligning technology with business needs.

  2. Design and Reference Gathering: This stage involves creating detailed plans and gathering physical references for the virtual content. It’s essential to spend ample time on design to ensure the XR experience is realistic and engaging.

  3. Art, Animation, and Environment Building: Here, the visual and interactive elements are created. The goal is to build a believable digital environment that can replicate or enhance real-world experiences.

  4. Quality Assurance and Testing: Rigorous testing ensures the XR content functions correctly and provides a comfortable user experience. This stage is vital for catching issues that could impact usability.

  5. Deployment: The final step is delivering the XR experience to the end-users. This involves technical deployment and potentially training users on how to interact with the new technology.

The Inspiration Behind "The Extended Reality Blueprint"

Eaton's decade-long experience in XR production and a passion for making this technology accessible motivated her to write the book. She noticed a gap in comprehensive resources that guide newcomers through the XR production process. Her goal was to create a manual that demystifies the complex stages of XR content creation for a diverse audience, including business leaders who may not have internal resources for such specialized knowledge.

Key Discussion Themes

Common Misconceptions About XR. One major hurdle Eaton aims to address is the discomfort some users experience with XR technologies. She notes that many people are quick to dismiss VR due to initial negative experiences, such as motion sickness. However, she stresses that advancements in design and hardware have significantly improved user comfort. Proper setup and thoughtful design can mitigate many of the issues that previously deterred users from embracing XR.

Overcoming Challenges in XR Production. Eaton discusses several challenges XR creators face, particularly balancing technological possibilities with practical application. While XR opens up incredible opportunities, it’s easy for projects to become overly ambitious, diluting the focus from the core problem they intend to solve. Eaton emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clear focus and delivering a simple, effective solution before expanding its capabilities.

Importance of User Experience (UX) in XR. User experience in XR is vastly different from traditional app or web design. In VR, the concept of "presence" is paramount – the user must feel completely immersed and convinced by the virtual environment. Eaton points out that designing for presence requires a deep understanding of how users interact with digital spaces, which is critical for creating effective and engaging XR applications.

Finding the Right Use Case for XR. Eaton advises organizations to start with problem identification when considering XR solutions. For example, in manufacturing, XR can address issues like workforce training and safety. By simulating complex or hazardous tasks in a virtual environment, companies can reduce training time, minimize material waste, and improve employee safety.

Case Study of a Successful XR Project. Eaton shares a successful project involving a food manufacturer with complex, decades-old machinery. The company used XR to recreate the machines in a virtual environment for training purposes. By scanning and rebuilding the machines in VR, employees could learn to operate, clean, and troubleshoot them safely and efficiently. The project resulted in significant benefits, including halving the training time and substantially increasing productivity, demonstrating a 30X return on investment.

Embracing Experimental Features and Collaboration with IT. Eaton stresses the importance of being comfortable with the unknown and planning for experimental features in XR projects. She mentions that XR often involves developing novel solutions, which can be challenging but also leads to innovation. She gives an example of creating a VR simulation involving a broom, which required detailed considerations about its use and mechanics. Annie advises that organizations should have a budget buffer for experimenting and planning flexibility. This approach can improve outcomes by allowing room for innovation and unexpected adjustments. She emphasizes early collaboration with IT departments to ensure support and smooth deployment of XR solutions. Avoiding bypassing IT is crucial for the successful scaling of these technologies within organizations.

The Intersection of Design and Technology. Eaton talks about how advancing technology, especially in haptic feedback and movement simulation, opens up new design possibilities in XR. She mentions haptic gloves and omnidirectional treadmills as examples of technologies that enhance the sensory and physical realism of XR experiences. The continuous development of these technologies allows for more immersive and interactive designs that were previously unimaginable.

Barriers to Adoption of AR/VR Technology

Content Production Challenges:

  • Specialization and Cost: Creating high-quality extended reality content is resource-intensive and requires specialized skills. The development cycle can span up to nine months, a period considered long in the fast-evolving tech landscape. This duration underscores the complexity and specialized nature of AR/VR content creation.

  • Talent Shortage: There is a limited pool of developers with the necessary expertise, despite overlaps with the video game industry. Recruiting talent with the right skill set remains a significant challenge, indicating a bottleneck in scaling AR/VR production capabilities.

Need for Internal Champions:

  • Advocacy Within Organizations: The success of AR/VR projects often hinges on internal champions—individuals passionate about the technology who drive its adoption within their organizations. These champions play a crucial role in overcoming initial resistance and demonstrating the technology's value.

  • Long-term Organizational Buy-in: Achieving widespread adoption within an organization can take years. The process involves not only producing the content but also deploying it and evaluating its impact over time.

Impact on Various Sectors


  • Public Health Information: AR/VR can transform the delivery of public health information by making it more engaging and interactive. This could involve gamifying educational content to enhance learning and retention.

  • Medical Training and Practice: AR/VR is revolutionizing surgical preparation and training. By creating 3D models of patients, healthcare professionals can simulate and practice procedures in a highly realistic environment, improving precision and outcomes.


  • Experiential Learning: AR/VR enables experiential learning, where students can interact with educational content in a more engaging and memorable way. This approach can significantly enhance understanding and retention compared to traditional methods like lectures or textbooks.

Government and Public Sector:

  • Military Training: The military has long used VR for training simulations, which provide safe and controlled environments for practicing complex and dangerous scenarios.

  • Social Interaction and Empathy: In the realm of diplomacy and international relations, AR/VR can foster more meaningful connections and empathy by allowing participants to interact in a shared virtual space, enhancing the sense of presence and understanding.

Additional Uses in Therapy and Pain Management:

  • Mental Health Treatment: AR/VR is being used for therapies, including treatments for PTSD and phobias. By immersing patients in controlled virtual environments, they can safely confront and manage their anxieties.

  • Pain Management and End-of-Life Care: VR is also finding applications in pain management and palliative care, providing patients with immersive experiences that offer comfort and alleviate pain.

Practical Advice and Insights

  • Embrace Uncertainty and Plan for Flexibility. XR projects often involve uncharted territory. Organizations should be ready to navigate unknowns and include a budget buffer for experimentation and iterative development.

  • Early IT Collaboration. Involving IT from the start ensures smoother integration and support for XR solutions, avoiding conflicts and enhancing deployment success.

  • Exploration of Mixed Reality. Mixed reality, blending the real and digital worlds, is a burgeoning area with vast potential, especially with advancements in full-color pass-through technology.

  • Advancement in Haptic and Movement Technologies. Technologies like haptic gloves and omnidirectional treadmills are expanding the possibilities for more realistic and interactive XR experiences.

  • Balancing Creativity with Technical Constraints. Effective XR solutions require a careful balance between creative vision and technical feasibility, with performance and user comfort as critical considerations.


Annie Eaton’s insights into the XR world provide a valuable roadmap for anyone looking to explore or expand their use of AR and VR technologies. Whether for entertainment, training, or operational efficiency, understanding the intricacies of XR production is essential for leveraging its full potential. Eaton's book serves as a crucial resource for demystifying these processes and guiding both novices and experts through the exciting possibilities of extended reality.