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So What’s the Buzz Surrounding VR Data Visualization?

One of the methods I used during my investigatation into the impact of Virtual Reality (VR) technology on data visualization and infographic design was to simply search online what other people have been saying.

For a few years now, there have been a number of articles prophesying the coming of VR to the field of data visualization and the big data industry. Many make predictions and claims on the revolution that VR will bring by stating a number of advantages.

So I made sure to read through plenty of these articles, just to make sure I got a good sense of what’s being said. Much of what I found was overwhelmingly positive on the impact of VR, but I felt a lot of these articles were just marketing and only gave one side of the story.

The only negative opinions I could find being said came from a couple of highly skeptical blog posts from Stephen Few, Can VR Enhance Data Visualization? and So Far, VR-Enabled Data Visuailzation is Nonsense. I also found a more balanced article, AR and VR in data visualisation – can it ever be useful to our puny human minds?, which talks about the issues and challenges currently facing VR data visualization.

But aside from these posts, I couldn’t find any more criticisms of displaying data visualizations in VR. If most of the opinions on the subject are positive, then is that a sign that VR will be wholly beneficial, and that the technology has yet to fulfil its full potential? 

After reading through enough articles and blog posts, I could start to see a pattern of what claims were being made about displaying data visualizations in VR:

  • It allows for more “Natural” interactions with the data [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [13] [14]
  • Great for multidimensional data analysis or allows you to view the data in ‘multiple dimensions’ [1] [5] [6] [7] [8] [13] [14]
  • Improves your processing and comprehension of the data [1] [9] [10] [11]
  • Eliminates distractions, allowing you to focus on the data more [1] [3] [12] [13]
  • The ability to ‘stack’ the data for better cross-referencing [5] [6] [11] [14]
  • Increases the speed and efficiency of reading the data [6] [11]
  • More efficient pattern recognition and discovery [4] [6]
  • Allows for more space to display the visualizations [1] [13]
  • Increases the amount of data you can process [2] [13]
  • Has the potential to make probabilistic reasoning easy [7]
  • Better for displaying spatial volumes [8]

The problem I have with a lot of these claims is that they’re usually not back up with evidence. I’m not an academic on cognitive science and human perception, so how do I know if these claims are correct or not? Is there a chance that a lot of the marketers promoting data visualization in VR are spreading misinformation around?

So to verify these claims and continue my research, I will need to find any studies that can back up these claims. I’ve already found a list of papers that are listed below under Academic Papers and Studies – I just need read through them all. I’m also talking with an academic on the subject and others involved in the industry.

After I’ve found the evidence I need (or lack of), the next step will be to go through each of these points with you all in a series of posts.

The goal of this will be to find the actual advantages of displaying visualizations in VR and gain a better understanding of this technology’s impact on the field. Also, it would be good to discuss the disadvantages, as well as what are the applications where VR will be the most useful in when displaying data.

Two advantages that I didn’t mention because I think they’re self-evident, is VR’s ability to allow for collaborative working and for displaying data in a more fun and engaging way. But for these, I don’t believe I need to go through with evidence.

Now I will have a lot of reading to get through, but I hope to update you all soon on this.



1. 5 Amazing Advantages of Virtual Reality in Data Visualization
2. How virtual reality (VR) will change big data visualization
3. Virtual Reality Will Be A Game Changer For Data Visualization
4. Virtual Reality: The Future of Data Visualization
5. How Will Virtual Reality Transform Big Data Visualization?
6. Why VR Data Visualization Could Be Your Secret Weapon in 2018
7. Everything Wrong with Traditional Data Visualization and How VR is Poised to Fix It
8. UNCHARTED TERRITORY: Diving into Data Visualization in Virtual Reality
9. 3 Reasons Why the Finance Industry Needs VR
10. Virtual Reality: the next step for Data Visualizations
11. 4 Ways VR Will Change Big Data
12. How VR And AR Will Change How We Visualize Data
13. 5 Reasons to Use Virtual Reality for Data Visualisation
14. 6 Ways Virtual Reality will Transform Big Data Visualizations


Other Relevant Articles


Academic Papers and Studies

I haven’t yet read through all these papers before writing this post, but I thought it would be useful to publish this part of my research.


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