Everything is being virtual realit-ified – from product development through to buying clothes. And it’s now being seen as the next step for Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.
Even simple data visualisation tools are now enabling businesses to make sense of their data – which often runs to thousands of lines of spreadsheet data. It’s impossible to get a handle on trends and patterns when data is represented in rows, and too big to fit on one screen.
But when turned into graphical representations where trends can be understood in seconds and insights gained in moments, the value of data visualisation becomes clear.
So taking that to the next level and creating a more ‘immersive’ experience is the natural next step.
Plans are underway within data analytics organisations to create applications that enable Data Scientists to literally step inside their data. They will be able to see the data represented visually in 3D; they can walk around it, stand under it, move it and see it from lots of different angles to better understand what is happening. They can layer over other data points – over and over to see correlations between information; which is usually limited in a 2D data visualisation tool where it soon gets messy and complex to understand once multiple different data points are overlaid.
Product development departments are already starting to look at how virtual reality can be integrated into their own data workflows, to reduce time spent developing and be able to interact with physical products without the cost or time of developing models first to spot errors. This offers a great saving opportunity, but also the possibility to explore many ‘what-if’ scenarios that might be too costly to explore with physical products.
The world of data is changing
As many businesses now employ Data Scientists, it doesn’t make sense to use the same old tools to do different jobs. Virtual Reality will provide a new way of visualising and engaging with data. If we can uncover insights quickly from just seeing a pictorial representation of data, just think what’s possible when you take that into a 3D environment where you can ‘walk through’ information.
The Wall Street Journal has a good example of a Virtual Reality-esque visualisation of the stock market history: http://graphics.wsj.com/3d-nasdaq/. This helps to give a bit of a flavour of what could be to come – imagine if you could stop on your journey and delve into the detail of a particular year, see a video of reporting at the time in the background while in front of you is a number of visual graphs showing different info that you can move around effortlessly, layering up to gain insights.
It’s a more intuitive and immersive form of data analytics – and I can see how stock markets would benefit from having all of their data in a virtual reality environment that traders use instead of desktop screens. Or perhaps instead of wall mounted monitors showing tech support graphs, IT technicians will be wearing VR headsets – analysing server capacity and alerts in real-time with virtual reality versions of their remote customer datacentres in front of them to help resolve issues – even when they’re not there in person.
It also offers the opportunity to be more collaborative when analysing and reviewing data analytics – imagine being able to walk your entire Board of Directors through a virtual reality data visualisation of your financial performance to date. Or perhaps you offer customers the opportunity to understand the data results from their recent Quarterly Business Review with your company via virtual reality headsets instead of emailing over a quick report they probably won’t even open. Some companies are even developing virtual reality chat assistants to bring an in-person experience to online engagements.
Underneath it all, the aim is to get from complex lines of data through to actionable insights sooner. And virtual reality certainly looks like it has the power to transform how we engage with data.