Data visualization lets experts “look” for trends and correlations using charts, graphs and maps that combine multiple datasets containing huge amounts of data. Data visualization is already a critical tool in the decision making processes for today’s successful enterprises.
“It is imperative for business leaders to realize and accept that the human brain may not be as compatible with data piles as a computer, but it is indeed immensely capable of interpreting graphics and patterns. Also, visuals are far more easy to interpret data forms than mundane text.”
Today, data visualization is mostly done using desktop PCs and flat screen monitors. But there are very practical limitations to this essentially two-dimensional format. (Yes, you can visually simulate a third dimension moderately well with perspective and shading, and even animate to add time or another dimension. But the amount of data you can correlate visually using a screen is still quite limiting.)
“Today’s Big Data projects often involve amalgamating hundreds of data sources, structured and unstructured, and it’s likely that 2D images, or even 3D ones presented on a flat screen, will no longer cut the mustard.”
With virtual reality, users can visually interpret considerably more data:
“By presenting data inside a 3D canvas which wraps around the user, far more than the traditional three dimensions become available. As well as placement on X, Y or Z co-ordinates, data points can be distinguished by size, colour, transparency, as well as direction and velocity of movement.”
And considering the trend toward big data, where vast seas of new data sources are pouring in from wearables and connected devices, there is clearly a demand for better data visualization tools.
We have a lot of data now, and we’re going to have more, so making it easy to spot these “differences” is of critical importance.
“The major advantages of VR is that it can be used to make perceiving differences in data easier, less dense, and more intuitive.”
VR and AR are not just about what you see -- they are also about how you interact with data. That old keyboard and mouse approach has serious limitations! VR’s human input devices let you use your entire body in highly intuitive ways to control the software. Users will be able to use their hands to choose data and adjust settings, or turn their head or body to change perspective. Once mastered, this interactive capability will even further enhance our ability to understand data trends and correlations.
Given these awesome new capabilities, what kinds of problems can visual data analysis help solve?
“One of the most promising areas where big data can be applied to make a change is healthcare. Healthcare analytics have the potential to reduce costs of treatment, predict outbreaks of epidemics, avoid preventable diseases and improve the quality of life in general.”
That article goes on to describe several cases where big data analytics are currently being used in health care, including: staffing (who, when and where), treatment decisions, real time alerts, predictive analytics and strategic planning. Doctors, nurses and administrators who need to make well-informed decisions can use VR-based data visualization to spot correlations and trends using the ever increasing number of data sets and data points becoming available in today’s (and tomorrow’s) big data landscape.