Data Representation in Virtual Reality
Data representation is a critical part of a wide spectrum of industries. Making that data easy to understand and analyze as well as empowering the analyst with the ability to extract key information and results from that data can make or break a company’s bottom line.
However coders, statisticians, and even painters, know that building understandable representations of data which include multiple axes is a non-trivial task. It may involve appropriately tilting a graph or adding color scale to geometric forms to describe the interrelation of the different variables and data pints and tt takes mastery on the designers part to convey the intended meaning effectively as possible.
While print formats locked us into an un-manipulable 2D perspective, the computer’s graphical interface allows users to shift the POV and highlight the area of interest in data visualization within a three-dimensional space.
Within VR (and AR), data analysts are drawing interpreters into the 3D space where that information can be accessed and its visualization can be altered. Some predecessors have released their tools, including the beta edition of datavizVR of which I’ve tried the demo. As a sample, I explored a 3D graph of three axes. This and other programs would allow the user to upload spreadsheets or csv files to automate the process. While there, I didn’t encounter information that couldn’t be graphically represented on a computer screen; instead, the key feature seems to be visual customization resulting in the optimal graph for relaying that information and transmitting it to interested parties. In utilizing these programs, one needs only decide if immersion into the graph is worth the trouble of launching one’s game engine and putting on a headset. As HMDs become more comfortable to wear and navigate (think wireless), the apparent trade-off will become less relevant.
There are circles who believe that VR will also have a role to play in the future of Blockchains, where information needs to be easily visualized and transaction data is verifiable by a group. Bitcoin VR is a recently available app that places users in an enchanted forest, where one can witness the real-time creation of bitcoins and shoot them with an arrow. The bitcoins appear from the sky in the form of pink crystals which plop to the ground; upon picking them up, they’re labeled with cryptic numbers assumed to be transaction ids, dates, sizes, etc… If you are the proud owner of bitcoin, you might know what its like to possess stakes in a currency that has neither physical realization nor national boundaries, so it may be satisfying to teleport into VR and find your precious bitcoin lying in the grass, ever appreciating in value (1922.77 USD as of writing).
If interested in the Blockchain’s relationship to VR, I’ll refer you to this article by Laskowski, and two recent podcasts by VR luminary Kent Bye, one with Second Life’s Phillip Rosedale, and another with Mark Pesce.