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XR Tech Glossary

This Glossary provides information on the foundational terminology and concepts used in the DLF Toolkit Volume 2 on Immersive Pedagogy.

Published onMar 09, 2022
XR Tech Glossary

This Glossary provides information on the foundational terminology and concepts used in the DLF Toolkit Volume 2 on Immersive Pedagogy. While these emerging technologies are in a constant state of flux, this glossary seeks to capture the nature of the technology as represented in these lesson plans circa 2020-2021.

360 camera

A device designed to capture 360 photography and/or 360 video. See also Insta360 Pro.

360 photography, VR photography

A type of photography that uses image stitching methods to represent a full 360-degree view of a scene. Unlike a conventional panorama, 360 photography captures points above and below the camera, creating a spherical viewing space. 360 photographs can be used in virtual reality applications.

360 video

Video that is recorded in all directions, producing a full 360-degree of a scene. Like 360 photography, 360 video can be viewed in virtual reality. Platforms like YouTube support 360 video playback on personal computers and mobile devices by allowing the user to pan the view using a mouse or touchscreen.


Short for three-dimensional. As an adjective, 3D can refer to several related technologies. It can refer to computer-generated graphics that represent geometric objects in three dimensions, often by plotting them in a Cartesian coordinate space with three axes. 3D models can then be rendered for 2D display on a screen or printed using a 3D printer. 3D can also refer to stereoscopic technologies that give images the illusion of being three-dimensional.

3D model, 3D object

A 3D model is a digital object that consists of a collection of points plotted in three-dimensional space. 3D models are created to represent real or imagined physical objects.

3D printer

A device capable of manufacturing a physical three-dimensional object based on a digital 3D model.

3D terrain map, 3D Digital Elevation Model

A 3D model representing the topography of an area. See also Terrain 2STL.

alternate reality game (ARG)

A type of game that consists of storytelling and puzzle-solving elements delivered over heterogeneous media, which may include social media, phone calls, and live performances. Because ARGs attempt to insert themselves into reality, they are sometimes compared to virtual reality and other forms of immersive technology.

Altspace VR

A multipurpose, free-to-use virtual reality application that allows users to interact with each other within custom virtual “worlds.” The platform can be used to host live virtual events, which may include classes, conferences, and meetups.


In the context of game design, an asset is a discrete element that can be used at multiple points in a game or across multiple games. Types of discrete elements include 3D models, graphics, background, special effects, or sound clips. Game engines like Unity and Unreal may have ‘asset stores’ or ‘marketplaces’ where user-created assets are hosted for free or paid download. See also Sketchfab.

augmented reality (AR)

Technology that overlays 3D or otherwise computer-generated elements onto a view of the real world. Many AR experiences run on mainstream mobile devices, but AR headsets are also available.

binaural audio

Audio that is recorded using two microphones inserted into a dummy of a human head that includes anatomically accurate ears and ear canals. Compared to conventional stereophonic recording, binaural audio is intended to more accurately recreate the experience of hearing sound in a given physical space, so it has been used in some virtual reality experiences.

cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE)

A type of room-sized virtual reality environment in which stereoscopic images are projected onto three walls and the floor of a cube-shaped room. The CAVE system was developed by the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois Chicago and was designed for scientific visualization.

cinematic VR

A type of virtual reality that is created using immersive filmmaking techniques, such as 360 video. Much like a viewer watching a traditional film, the user generally engages with the content in a passive way. Cf. simulation VR.


A type of play peripheral, usually held in the hands, that accompanies many headsets and video game platforms. In virtual reality, controllers commonly allow users to grab or manipulate objects within the virtual environment.

cross reality (XR)

See extended reality.

data visualization

The practice of using visual representations like charts, graphs, and maps to communicate data. A related, emergent practice involves the representation of data using haptic and/or sound-based methods.


A line of headsets designed for smartphone-based virtual reality applications.


A digital planetarium projection system developed by the company Evans & Sutherland.

extended reality, cross reality (XR)

An umbrella term for virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

geographic information system (GIS)

A digital system designed to manage, analyze, map, and visualize geospatial data. See also Google Earth.

Google Cardboard

A low-cost virtual reality system incorporating a headset or viewer constructed from folded cardboard. The virtual reality applications themselves run on a smartphone that the user inserts into the cardboard viewer. Google stopped selling the viewers in March 2021, but they can still be purchased from third-party manufacturers or constructed based on specifications. Now often used colloquially as a generic term for all cardboard extended reality viewers.

Google Earth

A computer program that uses satellite imagery and geographic information system technology to generate a 3D representation of the earth. It is currently free to use.


Having to do with the sense of touch. Many immersive technologies incorporate haptic feedback, such as vibrations delivered through controllers. This type of feedback is also common in video game consoles and mobile devices.

headset, goggles

A head-mounted display that provides the visual and audio components of virtual reality (and sometimes augmented reality or mixed reality) experiences. VR headsets generally include stereoscopic video displays, stereophonic or binaural audio, and motion tracking sensors so that the field of vision changes when the wearer moves their head. See also HTC Vive, Oculus, PlayStation VR.

HTC Vive

A line of virtual reality systems produced by HTC Corporation. The brand includes headsets, controllers, and tracking sensors. HTC Vive incorporates SteamVR hardware and software.

immersive technology

Any technology that aims to replace or extend reality. This is largely used in reference to extended reality technologies, especially virtual reality, where the notion of “immersing” the user in an experience (creating the impression of being physically present in the scene) is key. That said, this definition arguably includes technologies used to deliver elements of alternate reality games.

immersive visualization room

Generic term for a room-sized virtual reality environment. See also cave automatic virtual environment.

Insta360 Pro

A 360 camera model produced by the company Insta360.


Structured information that describes and contextualizes the content, history, technical characteristics, structure, or copyright/intellectual property status of an object.

mixed reality (MR)

A technology that is similar in functionality to augmented reality, but generally involves a somewhat more intense element of immersion. In MR applications, users can interact with both digital and physical objects while remaining aware of their physical surroundings.

mobile device

A computing device that is wireless and small enough to be used while being held in the hand or hands. Common mobile devices that interface with immersive technology include smartphones and tablets.


A line of virtual reality devices. The first commercial Oculus model, Oculus Rift, was released in 2016. The most recent model is the Oculus Quest 2. Oculus is owned by Meta, formerly known as Facebook, Inc. The Oculus brand will be phased out in 2022, and future headsets will be released under the Meta brand. Oculus play peripherals include controllers and tracking devices.


The practice of obtaining measurements of an object or space using multiple photographs taken from different vantage points. Photogrammetry can be used to create 3D models.


A type of large, usually dome-shaped projection environment, designed primarily for representing images of the night sky and astronomical objects. Often found at museums and universities, modern planetaria commonly combine optical-mechanical and digital projection systems. See also Digistar.

play peripheral

In computing, a peripheral is a secondary device that connects to a computer and interacts with it by receiving input, displaying output, or storing information. These may be referred to as play peripherals when they are associated with a device that is primarily designed for playing games, as with a virtual reality system or video game console. Virtual reality peripherals include headsets, controllers, and tracking devices.

PlayStation VR (PS VR)

A virtual reality system produced by Sony. In contrast with Oculus and HTC Vive models that run either on external personal computers or on internal operating systems, this headset runs on Sony’s PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 video game consoles.

Rec Room

An online video game that is playable on several virtual reality platforms. The game is free to download.

role-playing game (RPG)

A genre of game in which players take on the role of a character, often advancing through “quests” or adventures in a fictional setting. The first role-playing games were tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, but the genre has since expanded into video games.

representational VR

A type of virtual reality that aims to tell a story or communicate a message. Cf. therapeutic VR.

Samsung Gear VR

A virtual reality platform developed by Samsung and Oculus. The headset does not have an internal display; instead, a Samsung Galaxy or Note smartphone is inserted into the headset and acts as the display and processor. Gear VR is effectively discontinued and will no longer be supported on future versions of the Android operating system.

satellite imagery

Photographs of the earth collected by satellites orbiting the planet. See also Google Earth.

simulation VR

A type of virtual reality that simulates a user’s active involvement in a scene or scenario. Cf. cinematic VR.


A web-based platform for hosting 3D models. Models can be made available for free or paid download, making Sketchfab similar to an asset store in functionality.


A 3D modeling software program produced by Trimble Inc. SketchUp is primarily designed for architectural, engineering, and design applications. Both free and subscription-based versions are available.


A virtual reality platform developed by the company Valve. SteamVR is not specific to a particular headset; instead, SteamVR applications can be played on any one of a number of supported headsets, including HTC Vive and Oculus models.

tactile book

A type of book that renders images using raised lines and surfaces on a page so that they can be perceived and understood by blind and visually impaired readers.


A web-based interface that converts topographic data to a 3D terrain map in the form of an STL file, a file format used by 3D printers. The service is free to use and funded by donations.

therapeutic VR

A type of virtual reality designed to treat or alleviate a physical, psychological, or social condition. Cf. representational VR.


In virtual reality, tracking is the process of maintaining positional information about the user’s headset, controllers, and other relevant objects or body parts. VR platforms implement tracking in a number of different ways. Phone-based VR applications make use of smartphones’ internal accelerometers and gyroscopes. Other platforms may use a set of external cameras or sensors. A newer method, used by the Oculus Quest headset, is to scan the user’s environment and generate a 3D map.


A game engine capable of creating 3D on 2D games on a variety of platforms, including personal computers, mobile devices, virtual reality, and augmented reality. The game engine is complemented by the Unity Asset Store. A range of pricing plans is available, including free versions for personal or student use.

Unreal Engine

A game engine developed by Epic Games. Designed primarily for 3D game design, Unreal Engine supports personal computers, mobile devices, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Creators can buy and sell assets on the Unreal Engine Marketplace. There are multiple license options depending on the intended use, some of which are free-to-use and/or royalty-free.

video game

A type of game that involves graphics delivered on an electronic video display. Video games may run on personal computers, mobile devices, dedicated gaming consoles, or virtual reality technologies. They may be distributed on physical media (e.g., CD-ROMs, cartridges) or through digital storefronts like the Steam Store. Video games may have an educational purpose. However, they may be distinguished from other pedagogical tools with interactive video/graphical elements, which are not universally thought of as games by their creators or users.

virtual reality (VR)

The use of technology to create the impression of being physically present in a 3D computer-generated environment. Currently, most VR applications are delivered via dedicated VR headsets, but room-sized projection environments like planetariums and cave automatic virtual environments can also be understood as a type of VR.


A virtual reality application designed for viewing cinematic VR experiences. It is free to download.

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