Immersive Visualization: When There’s More to Data Than Meets the Eye
Earlier this year, I made a New Year’s Resolution: to bring data governance closer to the actual workplaces that are using the data by tapping into the tools that shape data systems of engagement ranging from physical board rooms and design workshops to virtual team collaboration tools such as Confluence and Slack. So now that we’re halfway through the year, how are we doing? Have we made any progress towards fulfilling my resolution? Well, I’m happy to report that we’ve made the resolution come true with our new immersive visualization demo.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with immersive visualization, let me provide a brief explanation. It’s no secret that as data grows and expands, the data models become increasingly complex. And we’re nearing the point today where two-dimensional data modeling is no longer sufficient. We need to explore new ways to visualize the data across multiple dimensions, in ways we never thought possible. Immersive visualization is the ability to expand the dimensions of the data beyond your traditional computer screen by allowing you to engage with the data in a 3D environment through dynamic, interactive visualizations. It looks something like this:
Pretty cool, right?
Well, in early May, at the annual Collibra Data Citizens Conference, we demonstrated this immersive visualization experience using Microsoft HoloLens technology. By putting on the wearable device, attendees could experience and interact with the data in a 3D environment – rather than just look at the 2D data as they do today.
Immersive Visualization: Not as Futuristic as You Might Think
Immersive visualization opens a world of possibilities for business users as it allows them to interact with the data in ways they never could before. And I believe that this is truly the future of data – especially data visualization.
Companies today are investing heavily in data visualization technologies such as those provided by Tableau, Qlik, Microstrategy, and others. But what I predict they will quickly realize that these tools are unable to handle the high complexity of the data available today – let alone the complexity yet unknown to us in the future. The high dimensionality of modern data sets represents a critical obstacle for these traditional visualization solutions.
It’s no secret that effective data visualization is critical to engaging stakeholders in almost every phase of big data governance. For example:
- Visualizing data ingestion to scale large amounts of incoming data sets
- Using data profiling to identify malicious data and extract it from further analysis
- Leveraging data cataloging and processing for:
- Traceability: visualizing complex dependencies between data points and business concerns, including glossaries, business processes, data quality metrics and policies of usage
- Lineage: rendering complex moving and transformation of data points through the data timeline.
- Directing the evaluation of applicable algorithms via machine learning
- Evaluating data for a myriad of reasons such as:
- Selecting, comparing, and relating models: by rendering information into an immersive 3D experience, users can take advantage of more intuitive ways to analyze data such as relative color, shape, distance, etc.
- Conveying the results to non-technical consumers (e.g., domain experts, upper management, and more)
Each of these processes are valuable. But when put in a collaborative setting, each one of these processes can be more powerful when users collaborate with each other and immerse themselves in the data in a shared, virtual space. Collecting many different viewpoints may collectively provide a more comprehensive understanding of the data and create a sense of participation (and collaboration!) through the entire organization. And it’s possible that immersive visualization can go even further. One study suggests, for example, that male/female differences in the sensory capacities are adaptive, but should be considered, in order to optimize represented and visualized data for end uses.
Now, if you’re reading this post and thinking that immersive visualization isn’t heading towards mainstream business, I urge you to think again. In an interview , Chi-Yi Kuan, Director of Business Analytics at LinkedIn, noted: “In the age of big data, there are mountains of data in every company. If you don’t have effective visualization, it won’t yield a grain of insights and returns.”
Leading data-driven organizations are already looking at the next big revolution: immersive and collaborative data visualization using virtual reality platforms. Will it be mainstream in the next year or two? Maybe not. But of the people who tested the experience at DC ’17, most agreed that their business could benefit from an experience like this one within the next five years. And given the incredible pace of change we’re seeing in the (data) world, you never know what’s possible.
How could immersive visualization add value to your organization?
Pieter De Leenheer is cofounder and Chief Science Officer of Collibra. He leads the company’s Research & Education group, including Collibra University, an online learning platform for data governance and data science education. Prior to cofounding the company, De Leenheer was a professor at VU University of Amsterdam. Today he serves as adjunct professor at Columbia University and as visiting scholar at several universities across the globe, including UC San Diego and Stanford.