[ VR, AR, MR, 360, Ambisonics ]

Testing, Designing, Playing and Sharing Immersive Worlds.


XR Next level digital content

XR (Extended Reality) is an emerging term used to combine VR, AR and MR (Virtual Reality; Augmented Reality; Mixed Reality). No one device can be said to represent XR but it is a catch all term used to include the wide array of innovations that extend our physical experiences with digital technologies. XR also alludes to the idea of an experience working across different platforms and devices. The term “XR” allows us to discuss, design and experience these emerging technologies in an open inquiry into the affordances of new devices and innovations in media without the limitations of specific definitions or categories of technologies and experiences,

Virtual Reality


An immersive technology that usually requires a headset that entirely blocks out the physical world around the user while presenting computer rendered content in a full 360 degree view of a virtual world. Examples include HTC Vive, Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR.

Augmented Reality


Computer generated graphics presented on a mobile or tablet screen that look as if they exist within the physical world. AR can add video, images, sounds, 3D graphics or any other data to what we see and hear in the physical world around us. AR usually requires a device with a camera and screen. The most famous example is Pokemon Go.

Mixed Reality


A hybrid reality combines elements of VR and AR to allow both real and virtual objects to come together and interact with each other in real time. For example, Microsoft Hololens.

The nature of the NIST XR Lab inquiry

XR (Extended Reality) technologies offer a bewildering array of experiences – companies promise unparalleled virtual worlds, educational apps claim transformative learning, industries project a cutting edge image through XR projects and the gaming industry is … well … largely unimpressed – so how do we navigate this rapidly developing field? The NIST XR Lab will begin this journey with 3 broad and open ended aims. 1. Learn the technology, 2. Explore available XR content, 3. Play with content creation. These 3 aims will set the stage for ongoing individual and collaborative inquiries at NIST to see what we can discover.

1 : Learn the technology

We need to test and explore how to set up devices, how to get new content into a virtual environment and find ways for NIST students to access these experiences. It’s the plugs and wires of how to put it all together without burning out circuits or bumping into walls.

2 : Explore available XR content

Through play we can explore the affordances of available content. We will record and discuss our experiences to develop a repertoire of language to describe XR content, build an understanding of how wide this field is and take a critical look at where this technology could take us.

3 : Play with content creation

One of the best ways to learn and understand new technologies is to get-under-the-hood and learn how to create content. The image of children playing in a sand-box offers a powerful metaphor for ways to playfully experiment, challenge, build and destroy to create. Unity 3D and Roblox offer accessible but also vastly complex tools however there are many other tools to explore.

XR Links





NIST Tech service group

Frequently Asked Questions

Why have VR, AR and MR technology at school?

VR has had many iterations over recent decades however new technologies combined shifts in the markets have generated rapid growth in VR and related industries. Such growth in any media requires an associated literacy that enables individuals and societies to make informed decisions about the use and implementation of related technologies. XR technologies offer unique learning experiences for students however research into the impact on learning is still very limited. The number of VR startups have increased by 14% in less than a year and VR gaming job postings increased by 93% between 2015 and 2018 indicating that students developing skills & understandings in extended reality technologies are well prepared to participate in contemporary media landscapes as creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. The development of XR experiences pulls together skills, knowledge and understandings from all disciplines such as mathematics, physics, history, story telling, coding, script writing, performing arts, music composition, music performance, sound design, graphic design, visual arts, industrial design, politics, sociology, and psychology – just to name a few. Not least of all, playing and developing in XR technologies is fun and highly motivating providing an ideal environment for powerful learning.

What VR technology is available at NIST?

TBC ::: NIST currently offers XX Google Cardboards, 2 Oculus Quests and 1 HTC Vive with an accompanying PC.

Where is the VR technology kept?

Google Cardboard

Oculus Quest

HTC Vive

Can I try VR for my classroom?

VR technologies are currently in the process of being tested by students in the NIST XR Lab to learn the implementation, integration and learning affordances of this technology. This means there is no current system for implementation and integration into the classroom setting however, if you are interested in using VR in your classroom please contact NIST XR Lab with your ideas and we can collaborate with you to find possible solutions and opportunities.

Who do I contact to arrange a VR session?

The NIST XR Lab is run by a group of students supervised by the elementary librarian, Philip Williams. Please contact XR Lab or Philip Williams directly to inquire about possibilities for you.

Read about cutting edge XR projects around the world

Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab

Be sure to visit the Current Projects page for some fascinating work in progress.

[From the VHIL website] “The mission of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab is to understand the dynamics and implications of interactions among people in immersive virtual reality simulations (VR), and other forms of human digital representations in media, communication systems, and games. Our work is centered on using empirical, behavioral science methodologies to explore people as they interact in these digital worlds. However, oftentimes it is necessary to develop new gesture tracking systems, three-dimensional modeling techniques, or agent-behavior algorithms in order to answer these basic social questions. Consequently, we also engage in research geared towards developing new ways to produce these VR simulations.


Our research programs tend to fall under one of three larger questions:

  1. What new social issues arise from the use of immersive VR communication systems?
  2. How can VR be used as a basic research tool to study the nuances of face-to-face interaction?
  3. How can VR be applied to improve everyday life, such as conservation, empathy, and communications systems.

For more information on these research questions, check our current projects page.”

Merge VR

Holding a virtual object forever changes the way we learn, create and play.

VR for Impact

“Virtual Reality will change the world, with your help.

     We believe that virtual reality has the potential to change the world unlike any technology before it. Mankind’s challenges have never been greater than today, and virtual reality’s unique ability to immerse people into an experience is unmatched. Virtual reality can connect us and create empathy by opening our eyes to someone else’s perspective. Education through immersive experiences creates awareness, and can lead the world to act on global issues the human race is facing with a sense of commonality.

     VR for Impact is a multi-year program providing grants to VR projects in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Through VR for Impact, HTC Vive commits funding to developers, creators and VR dreamers to build something new, something that speaks to our humanity and has the potential to change the world.

Let’s create a pathway to global peace and prosperity together!”

Artist: Christopher Manzione

Christopher Manzione is an American artist who uses augmented reality to produce original artist works in public space. The Activatar app is his most recent project. His work includes sculpture, installation, VR, 3D printing, performance, curation, and scene-lab. He primarily uses Unity 3D for his designs. He is an assistant professor in Visual Arts and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, USA.


Qualcomm in a San Diego communications company created in 1985 that now extends to over 40 countries and 170 offices.

A significant area of research and development for Qualcomm is in the field of Extended Reality (XR) where they see huge potential for transformation in consumer experiences, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, education and retail.

Google Expeditions

Imagine taking your students to the top of Machu Picchu, sending a whirling tornado through their desks, or helping them share their own stories with classmates. With virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), you can add a new dimension to your curriculum.

Google Arts & Culture

With a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard, you can use the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android to take a virtual tour of the street art scene in Rome; step inside a creation by famous street artist, Insa; or even travel 2,500 years back in time and look around the ancient Greek temple of Zeus.

Make sure you’ve downloaded the app to experience these 10 breathtaking virtual reality tours in full. When on a museum or institution’s page, scroll down to the ‘Virtual Tours’ section and click on a tour to launch the Cardboard experience…

Google Tour Creator

Use Tour Creator to create and publish virtual reality tours. You can use imagery from templates, Google Street View, or your own 360° image collection. Then, add details and facts to the tour to create immersive experiences.


AltspaceVR provides a unique social platform for people around the world to meet, attend free live events and play interactive games. Here is what you need to get started.

High Fidelity

Co-founder and CEO Philip Rosedale who created the virtual civilization Second Life, has now turned his attention to High Fidelity.

[From the High Fidelity documentation site] “High Fidelity is an open-source software where you can create and share virtual reality (VR) experiences. You can create and host your own VR world, explore other worlds, meet and connect with other users, attend or host live VR events and much more.


The High Fidelity metaverse provides built-in social features, including avatar interactions, spatialized audio and interactive physics. Additionally, you have the ability to import any 3D object into your virtual environment. No matter where you go in High Fidelity, you will always be able to interact with your environment, engage with your friends, and listen to conversations just like you would in real life.”

Apple (AR)T

Designed by Today at Apple, [AR]T brings together artists and curators, filmmakers and educators, in a collaborative initiative that pushes the creative potential of augmented reality.


Rendever is overcoming social isolation through the power of virtual reality and shared experiences.

MIT News article

Moving into a senior living community can make older adults feel as if their freedom is limited. In fact, more than 50% of senior living residents will experience depression or isolation during their stay, making loneliness among seniors a modern mental health epidemic.

With Rendever, residents simply put on a headset and they’re immediately transported into an immersive experience.

Travel to all corners of the world and explore a variety of different content. The experience is incredibly powerful, particularly among seniors experiencing cognitive decline, impaired vision or mobility restrictions.


PublicVR ( & PublicVRlab )

“PublicVR is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation dedicated to research in Virtual Reality for Education and providing free software for educational virtual worlds. Our human computer interaction research centers on large scale projection based displays, interactive educational theater, and mixed reality environments.”