It is of course the biggest darling of the forward thinking tech world right now: alternative realities. While companies like Oculus VR have pushed the idea of virtual reality revolutionizing our workspaces, home entertainment, and online interactions, other firms like Microsoft have instead championed augmented reality overlays, which give us information on the fly, in the real world.
Although the gaming implications or extra displays would be nice for day-to-day living, how could these technologies affect analytics?
For starters, they both have the potential to offer a unique perspective on data. While two-dimensional graphs, tables, and charts are all well and good, they have the potential to be far more intuitive and informative in three dimensions and we're already seeing the first signs of what an analytical future in augmented or virtual reality might be like.
Using an Oculus Rift DK2 headset, early adopters can now view Google Analytics statistics in a virtual grey-space known as GAVR. It is very barebones at the moment, but allows for natural head movement navigation and up close statistical analysis with bars and numbers if you so choose.
Although basic, this implementation shows that there could be new and more intuitive ways of looking at and perceiving data, which will only really be possible with a 3D virtual space –- whether augmented or entirely virtual.
However AR glasses also offer another interesting development with analytics data, not in how it's interpreted, but where. One of the most exciting aspects of Microsoft's Hololens platform, is that it allows us to bring the virtual world with us. Concept videos have shown us how people completing tasks could bring up video feeds with highlighted-instructions to make things easier. Imagine something similar, but with data.
Analyzing shopfronts or factory floors for optimizations would be a lot easier for the manager if they could not only view the real world, but also the data that goes along side it. Heat maps overlayed on the store's floor to show customer interactions analyzed from security footage, could make the task of improving the layout much easier than trying to do the same while staring at a 2D display with a list of numbers on it.
Traffic problems investigated with data overlays could make it possible to spot potential flaws in a design too, or a certain piece of road that's causing issues. Just the simple fact that the data would be viewed at the same time as the area being analyzed could be very helpful.
One of the biggest problems with the data produced by analytics is that it can be quite cold and require interpretation to draw real value from the data. When that data can be layered upon, or placed side by side with the real world it's drawn from, it could provide much needed context that would make the information that much more useful, making analytics as a whole more valuable to your customers.
What types of data-driven applications can you imagine for VR and AR?