ARTICLE BY ROBIN SANDERS

In Martin Ford’s Rise of The Robots, the world is driven by growing technology, automated tasks, and information. Indeed, how we live and learn today depends more and more on the data we are receiving. With many of us having heard of buzzwords like big data and deep learning, such esoteric concepts are being readily applied in today’s most fast-paced companies.

Information leads the competition. The data-driven business model has been applied across the spectrum of industries. Neighborhood startups to personal blogs use Google Analytics to track website traffic. IBM has been developing its Watson platform to measure its own KPIs. Facebook knows which ads to show based on activity online. The growth of a digital world has given ventures the ability to gather more data on their customers and competition so they can move more efficiently. As humans, will we continue to engage with vast data sets through our computer monitors?

While some major players create their analytics platform in-house, there exist third-party firms who specialize in providing analytics services to players looking to expand their internal and marketing intelligence. Such third-party firms, like Looker and Kineviz, are using the immersive space to expand their data visualization services.

Earlier in the year, Looker released its Look VR experiment on Steam to let VR consumers experience their data in a 3D space. What started out as a pet project has since burgeoned from popularity to the beginnings of visualization tools, which are able to be virtually manipulated and explored to the user’s liking. Such tools can one day allow virtual collaboration on real-time data, giving information to chance to become the center of conversations that will drive business decisions.

Kineviz started a visualization product on file sharing back in 2014 and has since then pivoted to more specific use cases within the business and medical industries. These companies run through a plethora of files every day. Data visualization demonstrates to companies where their virtual footprint lies, and how information moves within their internal infrastructure.

There also exists an academic application of data visualization. The AlloSphere Research Facility in UCSB, run by Dr. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, looks to represent large amounts of data within the three-story research sphere. With 26 projectors and 54 speakers, the AlloSphere can track data in time and space. This gives researchers the opportunity to physically immerse themselves in the data that surrounds them.

Allosphere Facility, UCSB

Perhaps the most common interaction with data comes in the form of coding. Software developers deal with thousands of lines of code, with a single company utilizing potentially millions of lines of code within its infrastructure. The team at Primitive.io is working to move code development out of the computer and into a virtual landscape, thanks to budding VR technology. Using an HMD, spatial mapping of code in a hierarchical structure will allow developers to work with their data in a 3D environment. With this method comes different memory patterns in the developer’s mind, and more sophisticated ways of visualizing their IDE.

John Voorhees, CEO/Founder of Primitive.io, demonstrating immersive code development.

As data becomes more sophisticated, so does the technology that allows data scientists to analyze that data. Analytics will continue to grow as companies figure out more ways to cultivate the information that lays before them. The analytics field will benefit significantly from visualization tools like VR.