As we navigate through a transformative era shaped by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, a new technological frontier is on the horizon — eXperiential Technologies (XT), also known as Spatial Technologies. The XT wave includes Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR), which are not just reshaping entertainment through immersive gaming experiences but also revolutionising learning with simulators and interactive applications. Moreover, XT is carving out significant roles in sectors like healthcare, travel and tourism, offering experiential solutions that redefine our interaction with the digital world.

Since many of these technologies are used by the gaming and entertainment industries, there’s a fair amount of conflation between the “lighter” and more “serious” usage of these tech. However, the DNA of these two sectors — entertainment vs other industries — are so different, and the skill sets required are vastly diverse. Therefore it is essential to advocate for strategic policies that will bridge these disparities

In this context, the IIT Madras’ IoE Research Center for Virtual Reality and Haptics released a whitepaper on the AR/VR/MR and eXtended Reality (XR) in India to act as a basis for policy and framework recommendations for this space. The report forecast that by 2030, XR would see significant advancements including powerful and compact devices, advanced sensor technologies, 6G connectivity and convergence with other technologies. And by 2047, XR would undergo further transformations with holographic displays and light-field displays, neural interfaces, quantum computing, decentralised platforms, and enhanced global collaboration. Therefore, it is imperative that efforts and investments into this set of technologies be guided properly to ensure India’s share in this space.

Some History

The roots of XT can be traced back to mid-20th century when pioneers like Morton Heilig and Ivan Sutherland laid the foundation for immersive technologies. Heilig’s Sensorama in the 1950s and Sutherland’s groundbreaking work on head-mounted displays in the 1960s marked the early experiments in creating immersive experiences.

The concept of Virtual Reality gained momentum in the 1980s and ’90s with the development of advanced computer graphics and simulations. Companies like VPL Research played a significant role in popularising VR applications for industries such as gaming, training and simulation.

Augmented Reality, which overlays digital information onto the real world, started to gain prominence in the early 2000s with the advent of smartphones and wearable devices. Applications like AR gaming, navigation and marketing began to showcase the potential of blending digital content with the physical environment.

Mixed Reality, which combines elements of both VR and AR, emerged as a powerful tool for creating interactive and immersive experiences. Companies like Magic Leap and Microsoft HoloLens pushed the boundaries of MR technology, enabling users to interact with digital objects in real-world settings.

Extended Reality emerged as a comprehensive term encompassing VR, AR, and MR technologies, offering a spectrum of immersive experiences.

Benefits, challenges

XR/XT bring immense benefits by enabling immersive experiences as well as enhanced interactivity (multi-modal, including voice, touch, gestures etc.) which are important for training and skill development in otherwise risk-prone sectors such as healthcare and exploration.

As a general advantage, working across industries, it enables remote collaboration and interaction across locations as well as improve inclusivity and accessibility for individuals with disabilities and special needs. However, XR/XT face some challenges as well, the foremost of which is hardware capabilities and availability of capable hardware at affordable prices.

XR applications also raise concerns about data privacy, security vulnerabilities, and potential misuse of personal information, requiring robust safeguards and regulations.

New things to learn

Perception engineering forms the foundation of XR, representing a new engineering discipline that leverages insights into human perception to design XR hardware and software. This novel field merges traditional engineering methodologies with an understanding of human perception, harnessing these insights to innovate in XR development.

Central to perception engineering is the consideration of sensory perception, cognitive load, motion sickness, and other dimensions of human perception, ensuring that XR technologies are not only functional but also ergonomic and user-friendly.

Perception Algebra is an emerging mathematical field that applies algebraic principles to analyse the interactions of different perceptual systems at sensory, perceptual, and cognitive levels.

Perception Physiology investigates the bidirectional relationship between perception and physiology, exploring how each influences the other.


Recognising the advantages of open source technologies and advocating for their adoption, the authors of the whitepaper believe it can foster collaboration, standardisation and inclusivity in the development of eXperiential Technologies. The whitepaper emphasised that for XR Innovations, India needed to establish technology leadership and invest in education, research, development, and innovation aligning with the idea of moving beyond being solely a services player in the domain.

The report presents a gap analysis to assess XR skills in India, in line with global initiatives. Identifying gaps in hardware, software, and application skills helps outline a roadmap for skill development for the Government of India and for the policymakers.

With the exception of optics, there is moderate to high level of expertise in hardware. There is a modest prevalence of expertise in software, except in VR OS where skills are virtually non-existent. It is apparent that the XR community in the country is focused predominantly on applications with a large number lingering at basic levels of skill.

The vision is to move the practitioners up the value chain by focusing on advanced education, R&D and innovation. While the Hardware and Software components of XR are driven by R&D, XR ‘Application Development’ is devoid of research content.

The report also has proposed several initiatives for infrastructure and skill development in India: an XR-Superhighway, XR-Corridor, XR Innovation Centers, XR Skill Training Centers, XR Experience Spaces, XR Manufacturing Centers, and XR Education Centers.