VR, AR and Unique Analytics Perspectives

As much as there isn't usually much of a crossover between consumer hardware/software and analytics, there may be one area of recent interest that could offer some surprising benefits in the future.

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?

Jon Martindale, Technology Journalist

Jon Martindale is a technology journalist and hardware reviewer, having been covering new developments in the field for most of his professional career. In that time he's tested the latest and greatest releases from the big hardware companies of the world, as well as writing about new software releases, industry movements,and Internet activism.

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Re: Not sure I agree
  • 10/26/2015 11:27:30 AM

I agree. For most consumers it can't require the use of a headset- it is too cumbersome.

Re: Not sure I agree
  • 10/26/2015 11:22:49 AM

@Tomsq   I like your idea, to incorporate it into a product offers promise, but just to have people strapping on headsets to offer the (VR) experience probably only appeals to gamers.

Re: Not sure I agree
  • 10/26/2015 11:18:36 AM

@kq4ym   I am skeptical as well - The economics of VR is still major barrier to wide spread use as well.  Those googles are not cheap.  Google makes a cheaper version out of cardboard, but you still need a top of the line smartphone to get anything out of it.

After that - there is little interesting content to be had.  At this moment, VR is more hype than substance.

Re: Not sure I agree
  • 10/26/2015 11:18:35 AM

It might find uses in HUDs in cars. This would be the next step in navigation when you can see the simulation of the upcoming intersection where you want to turn.


Re: Cart way before the horse
  • 10/26/2015 11:12:57 AM

@jmerson2   As with most technology innovations the military always tends to be the first on the block and then someone in the private sector gets their hands on it and then pretends they are a genius to the rest of us.

Re: Cart way before the horse
  • 10/26/2015 11:08:19 AM

@Terry   Good point. If the technology is so wonderful, you should not have to work so hard to sell it. There are startups popping up by the minute in this space, still trying to figure out how to make a profit.

Good Luck.   VR is not something people are going to line up for anytime soon.

Re: Not sure I agree
  • 10/26/2015 10:20:27 AM

I still a bit skeptical about moving VR into mass markets. Yes, there's lots of gamers and lots more game watchers. Some small percentage of those folks may want to strap on a viewer, but how to get the majority to join the fad is quite a job. There may be specialized uses for VR, probably still a small sector. But, you can be sure there's some government and security folks out there exploring the area for some novel ways to put it to work in those fields.

Re: Cart way before the horse
  • 10/15/2015 7:48:28 AM

Terry, that was my first impression when I saw the pictures of gee-whiz technology. Then I realized VR has been used in military training.

Cart way before the horse
  • 10/14/2015 2:07:02 PM

Sorry, but this is gee-whiz technology that's leading the market, and having to work really, really hard in the process to create demand. That's completely counter to how most lasting products make their way to market. And Google's fingerprints are all over it, which doesn't bode well either.

Not sure I agree
  • 10/14/2015 12:58:16 PM

I think one of the most heavily studied devices right now is the smartphone and if that is not a consumer device, I don't know what is. I think VR and AR do offer some real possibilities for the future- you can set up scenarios and test concepts before they are released, fo example. It, however, is not really correct to say there is not a strong connection between users and analytics.

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