Seeing is believing? No – experiencing is believing!

The Power of Extended Reality

A growing number of people throughout the Netherlands are using Geomagine’s innovative experiential technology, intrigued as they are by the opportunity to catch a hyper-realistic glimpse into the cities, neighbourhoods or world of the future. Since we want the experiences we create to be as relevant to users as possible, we use five different realities we collectively refer to as ‘Extended Reality’ (XR). In this first blog post, XR expert Edwin Fennema will walk us through these various reality types, after which he will show how we use them to assist our clients and advance our mission every day of creating a smarter, safer and more sustainable world.

A variety of realities

“As a future game architect, I became fascinated at a young age by the different types of realities that exist and their individual qualities. Combining reality as we know it with a virtual version of it creates an endless number of possibilities, as well being useful in other ways. For example, you can improve existing situations, make more informed choices and decisions and reduce the number of errors, as well as get people actively involved in developing their communities. You can also use it, for example, to prepare prisoners for their reintegration into society by presenting them with a virtual version of what life ‘on the outside’ is really like. As you can see, there are all kinds of categories of people who benefit in some way from these alternate realities.”

Extended Reality

“Extended Reality is the catchall term for all the technologies we use to combine physical and virtual realities, which therefore allow us to ‘extend’ our reality, so to speak. Pokémon, which uses Augmented Reality, is a good example of what we call Extended Reality. You could be staring at a creature that, while not actually physically present in the room, nevertheless appears to be visible and palpable. While this may not be ‘real’ in the literal sense of the word, the Pokémon character does hold meaning for you: at least in a mental sense it has become part of your extended reality.”

Back to the future

“And you can extend reality with items that don’t even exist yet today, as well as experience vanished worlds – throwbacks to the past, if you will. Virtual Reality can transport you back to Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat shopping street in 1880, complete with the rattling noise made by the wheels of horse-drawn carriages and the dim street lights of that era. I can also have you explore what the public transport station at (Amsterdam business district) Zuidas will look like in the future, even though the large-scale renovation of this station won’t be completed for another few years.”


1. Virtual Reality

"Virtual Reality is the first and most well-known of the various realities. By putting on a VR headset, you can shut out everyday reality as we know it. It is all about the immersive experience: you literally become immersed into a virtual reality. The gaming industry has made the 360-degree experience of 3D worlds very popular, and if you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights or claustrophobia, VR can make it look like you’re really standing on the edge of a cliff or packed together in a crowded lift with some of your co-workers.”

2. Augmented Reality

“Unlike VR, Augmented Reality does not involve shutting out reality. In fact, it’s the opposite: you project something that isn’t really there in your current environment or reality. You may be familiar with the convenient AR app introduced by IKEA. I might select, say, the classic ‘Billy’ bookcase and project it into my living room using my smartphone camera. I will then be able to put it in any part of the room I like, with exactly the right dimensions and in my preferred colour. And as a tourist in Amsterdam, an AR app can provide me with a wealth of historical information as I stroll across the Museumplein or Prinsengracht.


Use your smartphone to design your home. IKEA uses Augmented Reality to visualize new furniture items in your house.


If you’re looking to overcome your fear of heights, VR can make it look like you’re really standing on the edge of a cliff

3. Mixed Reality

“This is the reality that’s very similar to Augmented Reality. But while that IKEA bookcase or sofa has a direct link to your living room, the object we use as part of Mixed Reality has no relation to the environment you project it into. For example, we can show right here what the city of Alkmaar will look like in 2030 and explore various scenarios for growth. We can also use the technology to project a human heart and make it float in front of us, so we can walk around it, watch it beat and examine how it functions.”


Viewers of the Weather Channel really got to experience Hurricane Florence: Mixed Reality was used to visualize a 9-metre storm tide.

The Weather Channel

4. Hybrid Reality

“Hybrid Reality is especially suited to bringing a scientific model or map to life, as 3D makes it really become part of the VR environment. You get to see the coherence or consequences of something, or how something works, in a much more powerful way. One example would be a flooding model for an impending hurricane. You can use VR to combine the way water behaves during the hurricane with the reality of the meteorologist in the TV studio. Viewers see her standing in a calm and placid ocean right now, but once the water starts reaching the land the water is literally up to her eyeballs. It allows you to experience how a scientific model works – and how the water behaves – in a hyper-realistic way.”

5. Diminished Reality

“Diminished Reality is a form of Augmented Reality where something is eliminated rather than added. Say I’m standing on a hill and am using my smartphone camera to look at the forest below me. I would like to know where the jays are nesting, but all the treetops are obstructing my view. I then use DR to instruct my camera to remove ‘anything resembling a tree.’ The camera now shows me in 3D what we know about the site in question based on all the existing data, so the nests of these magnificent owls are displayed as well. Diminished Reality always provides you with a functional idea of the situation.”

We can also use the technology to project a human heart and make it float around in front of us