Glossary of Immersivity

This glossary has been designed to facilitate and accelerate the digital literacy of users who are approaching the concept of immersivity for the first time, and to define technologies, tools, and their applications.

Immersive Technologies allow users to stimulate certain sensations and create and make them live more or less multisensory and “total” experiences. These technologies can “extend” the surrounding reality or to create a completely different environment from the physical one. Digital tools can be used to give users specific perceptual experiences that make them feel like they are in another place or in a space completely different from the real one (virtual reality). Some types of immersive technologies, on the contrary, allow extending the surrounding reality, adding digital content to their environment: this is the case of augmented reality.

Developing an immersive environment requires matching specific hardware and software devices. Depending on the type of technology used and the degree of fusion between physical and virtual reality, the kind of experience and the level of intensity of “immersion” change.


AR – Augmented Reality

Augmented reality adds digital elements to the real world, “extending” the surrounding environment. AR superimposes digital information (text, images, live-action, or animated footage) on elements of the real world. One of the best-known examples is the 2016 game Pokémon GO. This experience can, in fact, be managed from smartphones, iPhones, tablets, and iPads through the camera vehicle, specific apps, or wearable devices such as headsets and glasses.

VR-Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated, three-dimensional immersive experience that deceives the senses, leading you to believe you are in a parallel world. The user can receive visual, sound, and tactile feedback from the surrounding environment using tools specific to the sense involved and the level of interaction desired, such as a headset, headphones, tactile controllers, or gloves with sensors or controls. All this allows the user to have a 360-degree view of the virtual landscape and interact with its elements. The virtual reality experience can be managed from different devices: PCs (as in the HTC VIVE system), consoles, smartphones, and headsets with integrated hardware.

MR – Mixed Reality

Mixed Reality (MR), or hybrid reality, seeks to merge the physical and digital worlds, allowing users to interact with both physical and virtual elements and environments by using the latest generation of sensory and imaging technologies. MR offers the possibility of being in the real world and an imaginary place at the same time, breaking down the basic concepts of reality and imagination by influencing both. Thanks to mixed reality (MR), one may, while playing a video game, grab a real-world spoon and defeat a character with it.

VPR – Videomapping

Videomapping, or Video Projection Mapping, is a particular form of augmented reality, also called Spatial Augmented Reality, that consists of projecting images on a real mapped surface (a screen or any geometric shape up to the facades of large architectures) to obtain spectacular 3D effects.

3D Holograms

3D holograms are three-dimensional reproductions of objects, images, and characters that can be seen without the mediation of a device, as in augmented reality. Although these reproductions are not solid objects and thus cannot be touched, thanks to the latest technology, they look incredibly real.

3D Audio

The feeling that 3D Audio produces is that of being immersed in a completely enveloping audio wave. It is a unique experience that allows one to experience the sound rather than just listen to it. To achieve this effect through headphones or headsets, the binaural sound system is used. This is a technique that was born over a century ago and can replicate the functioning of the human auditory system, offering the possibility to record 3D audio and listen to tracks in unprecedented quality.



The stereoscope, also known as a stereoscopic viewer or stereovider, is an optical device in the form of a “mask” or “binocular” equipped with lenses for viewing stereoscopic images (two-dimensional plane images made to provide an illusion of depth).

This tool is listed because it is the basis of the most modern technologies and the logics of headsets and visors.


A cardboard is a structure made from a sheet with recesses and notches of the same material that folds on itself to form a VR stereoscope for smartphones. To use it, users download applications compatible with Cardboard on their phone, place it on the back of the visor, and view the content through the lenses. The structure was prototyped by Google to make VR more accessible and widespread. Google Cardboard allows a wider audience to have immersive experiences with an affordable technology compatible with both Android and iOS systems.

Visors (HMD)

A head-mounted display, or HMD, is a screen mounted on the viewer’s head through an ad hoc helmet; it can be monocular or binocular. There are various types of headsets, either portable or for PCs, ranging in price and features. Different HMD are used in different sectors, but all create in the user the illusion of being in a different place from their physical location.

The most famous PC viewer solutions are also the most expensive:

  • HTC Vive Pro and HTC Vive Cosmos Series
  • Oculus Rift
  • S Lenovo Explorer for Windows

Mixed Reality Examples of portable VR headsets include:

  • Gear VR: a Samsung technology, designed to be used on Samsung GALAXY devices
  • Oculus Go: the cheapest headset with integrated hardware by Oculus
  • Oculus Quest: the most powerful portable headset on the market so far.
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