Data visualization, the technology enabling data scientists to render hefty insights which are also meaningful and easy-to-comprehend, was somehow reluctantly treated by innovators.
Over the last years, visualization software has been indeed supplied with diverse presentation techniques, allowing data specialists to step away from hackneyed pie charts and bubble plots. Beyond this, the high-end Microsoft Power BI and Tableau tools have even gained ML-driven pattern detection capabilities.
However, these improvements don’t fully satisfy the demands of our data explosion age, as visualization remains among the most taxing aspects of data scientists’ work. According to Anaconda’s 2020 State of Data Science report, the respondents spend 21% of their time creating graphical representations of detected trends and patterns, which makes it the second most time-consuming task in their workflow, behind only data cleansing. This struggle highlights the need for qualitative transformation in the field, and the up-and-coming extended reality technologies may give data visualization a much-needed boost.
The potential of AR and VR has only recently been recognized by enterprises across domains, but, as a1qa admits, has already spurred a visible surge in these technologies’ development and adoption. With the recent forays into immersive data visualization proved successful, AR/VR technologies promise to assist data scientists in harnessing the power of big data fully.
Let’s now explore in detail how extended reality can take data visualization capacity up a notch and look at the emerging AR/VR-powered solutions on the market.
Unlimited Visualization Possibilities
The recent advancements in mobile, IoT and cloud technologies have left data scientists with unprecedentedly large swaths of disparate business data to visualize. As practice shows, many specialists struggle to adequately fit their findings into the traditional presentation formats and communicate their ideas without oversimplification and inaccuracies. In such circumstances, a fair share of gathered data is never used, turning out a waste of time and money.
This is where an AR/VR visualization tool can make a fundamental difference. Working in a 360-degree virtual environment, a data scientist can create multidimensional, high-fidelity models for complex data sets and make them easy-to-understand for a common user. Also, instead of leaving valuable data untapped, the technologies allow data scientists to put it all to use in order to craft a broader, more detailed picture.
The AR/VR potential to intelligibly visualize big data is considered game-changing by the Wall Street executives, according to Business Insider’s 2019 poll. Already several financial organizations, the Bank of America among them, have made the first steps to adopt the technology, and more are to follow soon. Although the bulkiness of associated hardware is unanimously regarded as a major AR/VR disadvantage, companies are actively investing in refining the devices, so the technology is highly likely to find its place in the consultants’ and traders’ workstations sooner rather than later.
Intuitive Data Interpretation
Beyond the limitless presentation formats, AR/VR offers a more user-friendly way to perceive and analyze data. Handling AR or VR visualization from multiple viewpoints, one can easily uncover important trends, patterns, anomalies, and gaps that would be impossible to spot using spreadsheets or charts. As we live in a three-dimensional world, perceiving 3D objects is a natural experience for us humans, and this contributes to the ease of data understanding and retention as well.
This opportunity to have hands-on experience with data is what prompted NASA scientists to adopt VR for galaxy exploration in 2019. The astronomers were tasked with classifying star groupings but struggled to reach a collective agreement. As a way out, they decided to abandon the traditional paper graphs and visualize the speed and direction of the four-million-stars Milky Way neighborhood in virtual reality, using the proprietary PointCloudsVR platform. In the simulation, star groupings were easy to spot, allowing scientists to not only accomplish their job faster, but also find mistakes in their previous classifications.
On top of it, immersive data visualization allows ramping up your team collaboration. Instead of huddling together over a computer screen or a multimedia projector, trying to make sense of 2D charts, the team can meet in a VR environment to overview dynamic three-dimensional data presentations and work on them together.
This opportunity comes in particularly handy today when so many companies have to operate remotely. VR offers data scientists a unique opportunity to come face-to-face with colleagues and hold more focused discussions without the distractions of at-home workplace and communication lags of video conferencing or messaging.
Last year, researchers from the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons were conducting a study to find the correlation between flu epidemics and cancer mortality. To analyze the findings, the group chose the Virtualitics Immersive Platform for its advanced virtual presentation features and particularly strong real-time teamwork capacity. Able to collaborate on extensive data sets, the group promptly discovered the link between the flu severity and the mortality rate of lung-cancer patients.
Last but not least, by relying on AR/VR data presentation, data scientists improve their chances of avoiding ambiguity and misunderstanding when communicating complex ideas to stakeholders. While a traditional table or graph is worth a thousand words, an augmented-reality 3D model or an immersive dynamic simulation will prove times more digestible and convincing.
In virtual reality, you can also add additional explanatory information (images or videos) to your presentation, which the viewer can access anytime with a simple hand controller manipulation. As immersive experiences are highly exciting, the presentation will more likely resonate with the audience and be retained in their memory for longer.
Last year, IBM introduced Immersive Data — an AR-powered exploration tool that “brings data exploration to life” by blending physical and virtual realities. The solution allows data scientists to visualize sophisticated data sets in 3D and demonstrate it to stakeholders, who, wearing AR headsets, can manipulate virtual objects in many ways. IBM Immersive Data is aimed at data scientists across industries, who wish to render their presentations not only more engaging but also more meaningful.
Augmented and virtual reality technologies have caused ripples in the business world, and it’s high time data scientists tamed them for their own use. Through the success stories and products on the market, extended reality shows the actual capacity to unlock the full power of big data analytics and reimagine the way to present multidimensional insights.