The Data Visualisation Catalogue Blog

VR Data Visualization: More Natural Interactions with Data

While researching on the Buzz Surrounding VR Data Visualization, I found the most common claim being made was that VR allows for more “Natural” interactions with the data.

Initially, I thought to myself, how could virtual reality actually make things seem more natural? The fact that it’s called VIRTUAL reality already implies that it’s something unreal and not connected to the natural, physical world. Being in a VR world is completely unnatural because you are immersing yourself in a digitally-constructed reality.

But after going through my research, here’s what I found being said on the topic:

What helps us connect with our environment in the real world? It is the ability to easily touch and feel the objects around us, isn’t it? But what happens in a digital world? For long, we have relied on mice and keyboards to facilitate this sense of interactivity. But now, with virtual reality, we can gain a more natural sense of interaction by physically pushing buttons, moving the objects around and by even controlling data streams. So, just as you walk around your sofa or computer table, you can literally move around huge volumes of data. Pretty cool, uh?

5 Amazing Advantages of Virtual Reality in Data Visualization,

[…] The immersive nature of VR, combined with the more natural presentation of information in VR, allows the user to increase the amount of data they process. […]

People can use VR to step inside the massive data sets generated by the business to observe them in a more intuitive and natural way. In doing so, it allows them to process this information more efficiently without going into cognitive overload.

How virtual reality (VR) will change big data visualization,

The possibilities offered by VR are huge, and nowhere is it more important to businesses than data visualization. The naturalistic way it allows people to interact with virtual objects, the ability it affords individuals to experience the data through all senses – touch, sound, and even smell – mean that there are many opportunities yet to be explored, and data visualization companies should start preparing. 

Virtual Reality Will Be A Game Changer For Data Visualization, Innovation Enterprise Cannels

We use our hands to feel things around us; virtual reality allows doing this through data visualization. Companies can manipulate data streams, push windows around, press buttons and practically walk around data worlds with the help of VR technology. Consequently, it enables users to make accurate data analysis and facilitates faster decision-making process.

How will virtual reality transform big data visualization?, Quantzig

Virtual Reality allows us to touch an information as a real things with the help of data visualization. Today it is possible to manipulate data directions actually walk around data worlds. This allows users to make accurate data analysis and thus, faster decisions.

Why VR Data Visualization Could Be Your Secret Weapon in 2018, SMICHRISSOFT

In the real world we interact with objects directly with our hands. This allows us to connect with the environment around us and get a better idea of the objects we’re dealing with. For a long time, we’ve used keyboards and mice as conduits for this interaction. Through virtual reality, we can return to a more natural way of interacting — by physically pushing buttons, moving windows around and manipulating data streams (such as in this VR assisted biological specimen analysis). That is in addition to being able to walk around and through these data worlds.

5 Reasons to Use Virtual Reality for Data Visualisation, Towards Data Science

In the world that we live in, we can use our hands to feel things. Virtual reality allows us to do the same thing through data visualization. You can manipulate data streams, push windows around, press buttons and actually walk around data worlds. This allows users to make accurate data analysis and thus, faster decisions.

6 Ways Virtual Reality will Transform Big Data Visualizations, Cabot Technology Solution

I was introduced online to a PhD researcher, Andrea Bravo, who I talked with to better explain to  what is meant by having more natural interactions in VR. Andrea is currently researching into data visualization in VR based on the experience of “being immersed in data” and how does this affect decision-making.

From our conversation, Andrea explained that VR enables high-end user computer interfaces that replicate a scenario with high fidelity, through multimodal input. Also that having different input modalities and also different sensory feedback allows for more natural interaction.

Andrea went on to clarify that by ‘natural’ she understood in regards to the incorporation of our other senses in the experience because that’s our natural way of perception (as we have five senses). VR allows for exploration of data with the incorporation of those other senses, such as sound but also haptics (touch).

Andrea also went on to explain the importance of using haptics and tangible objects for natural interaction. As the fact of being able to use the two hands for data exploration also allows for natural interaction.

In the paper The Hologram in My Hand, there is some evidence of this with visualizations shown on some tests comparing desktop data visualisations with tablet AR and immersive tangible AR with the Hololens. With the HoloLens, users are about to “touch” the data by reaching with their hand inside a hologram visualization.

Microsoft HoloLens, Source: Wikimedia Commons

To elaborate further on what is meant by natural interaction, Andrea defines natural interactions as behavioural components close to the way we interact in real-world environments.

She goes on to explain that in the real world we have certain manners of interaction. But when in-front of a desktop computer this interaction transforms completely because we use a keyboard and mouse to interact with the world on the screen. If you want to move something on screen you just press the mouse button or use the keyboard, but this is not how we interact with objects in real life.

However, in VR, you can interact with objects by grabbing them and moving them around with your hands, as you can do in physical space. There is even the option for special gloves that give haptic feedback when interacting with objects in VR.

So everything about VR allowing for more natural interactions is true. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will aid in the visual communication of data. In the future, it would be good to see more research on how having more natural interactions with data visualization aids in the analysis and reading of the data.

Related Reading

The Hologram in My Hand: How Effective is Interactive Exploration of 3D Visualizations in Immersive Tangible Augmented Reality? B. Bach, R. Sicat, J. Beyer, M. Cordeil & H. Pfister

Virtual reality-based human-data interaction, E. A. Widjojo, W. Chinthammit & U. Engelke

An investigation into the implementation of virtual reality technologies in support of conceptual design, R. I. Campbell, T. Page & K. S. Badni

An advanced virtual reality multimodal interface for design, R. De Amicis, G. Conti & G. Ucelli

Other VR posts

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