Big Data Meets Virtual Reality

Innovative technology for data visualisation

Businesses are well aware of the importance of Big Data analytics, but communicating information in an accessible and meaningful way can be challenging. That’s where data visualisation comes in by turning info into comprehensive visual representations. This can include anything from a simple timeline to an interactive infographic, but there’s an option that is decidedly more immersive. A far cry from standard PowerPoint presentations – California based startup Virtualitics is using VR to deliver data visualisation in a virtual environment. Founded in 2016, the company received $4.4 million in funding earlier this month. So how are they using this investment to develop virtual data visualisation, and how will it disrupt the way information is viewed?

VR for data visualisation
Merging Virtual Reality and Big Data isn’t a new idea. In fact, the University of Washington Human Interface Technologies lab has worked on VR data visualisation for over 20 years. However, Virtualitics’ accumulation of so much investment in such a short period of time is a clear indication of serious venture capitalist support. Although virtual data visualisation has existed for years, the platform created by the startup is the first to combine Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Virtual/Augmented Reality. It uses smart mapping, smart routines, machine learning and natural language processing to identify important patterns and display them in the virtual environment, which can then be customised by users. The platform can be applied to any industry that relies on data analytics, and lets users examine up to 10 dimensions of data. One of the main issues with visualising data is making it comprehensible. The human brain can only process so much data before it becomes meaningless. However, through analysing the reactions of users within the experience, graphics can be altered in real time to maximise understanding. “Virtualitics is harnessing the power of VR/AR and AI to present and analyse Big Data in an unprecedented way,” said Marco DeMiroz, co-founder of The VR Fund. Alongside Virtualitics, other companies are using Virtual Reality for data visualisation. For example, LookVR is an app which allows businesses to explore and interact with data. Up until now there has been limited success, but a combination of sufficient funding and technological advancements will change that.

How will VR disrupt data visualisation?
As essentially all industries deal with data in some form, the scope for disruption is massive. Machine learning alone is faster and more efficient than traditional techniques, but pair this with VR and you have real accessibility. Applying VR technologies to data will be helpful for businesses on an internal level, by extracting key info and making it easy to understand. This could be benefit companies across the scale, from retailers to utility firms. It could also disrupt B2B negotiations, as using advanced, immersive data visualisation could determine whether a business agreement is successful or not. Pairing VR with data visualisation is also an enabler for new business models, which combine the expertise of co-workers in different geographic locations. However, in light of upcoming legislation on data sharing and analysis, businesses will need to be careful with the machine learning platforms they use. Understanding and sharing comprehensive data is great, but analysing the wrong data (including private or sensitive) could be damaging to a company.

Data analysis is about making the most out of information. Innovative technology can play an important role in doing this – especially tech which is primarily designed for visualisation. By putting vast quantities of info into visually comprehensive environments, VR can unlock the potential of data in ways that traditional methods can’t. Even so, data collection and analysis is still a touchy subject, and it’s easy to see why. People are precious about their information, and for good reason. It’s not just the software providers that need to be aware of how the platform gathers and uses data. Users should think carefully before entrusting information to an external service, no matter what or who it is.

Could your business benefit from virtual and/or augmented data visualisation? Will pairing VR with Big Data make it easier for co-workers to collaborate? Which industries would benefit most from virtual datasets? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions.