Interview with BadVR CEO, Suzanne Borders

Suzanne Borders is the CEO and Co-Founder of BadVR, an immersive data visualization startup building the next generation of data analytics tools, using spatial computing. We are grateful to have Suzanne and BadVR aboard the DAIA team.

What is your background?

For the past six years I have been leading the UX and product design for two-dimensional data visualization analytics tools, focused on the real estate and hospitality industries.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a female entrepreneur?

Being a female entrepreneur has not always been easy. There are two areas in which I have found it to be difficult. One, the external challenges of societal pressures and, two, the internal challenges regarding self-image. Women face hard-to-navigate issues like sexual harassment in addition to smaller challenges like being the only woman at a company, which has happened to me so many times. Navigating all the different ways in which people project their own feelings about what a woman should be onto me and how they expect me to behave and living up to people’s expectations of femininity and what that means to them, has been difficult. Especially so, given that I do not often confirm to society’s standard of femininity in behavior or life choices.

Another challenge has been finding role models. I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, of being a founder, but I never saw anyone who looked like me pursuing this dream in real life. When you look around and see everybody achieving your dreams looks different than you, it is hard to believe you can achieve these things. 
 
 But all these challenges are no match for my will power! I do not let other people’s expectations, constraints, or disapproval stop me. Despite everything — I am a founder and an entrepreneur. I have become what I always dreamed of being.

How did BadVR begin?

I was leading the UX & product design at a company that provided 2D data visualization and analytics tools for the residential real estate industry. Due to the extremely large and complex nature of the datasets we were visualizing, I had to really think through how to make the data manageable for normal, nontechnical people, as the vast majority of our users were not technical nor did they come from a technical background. 
 
 During this process, I had the idea that instead of looking down on a 2D map, it would be better to look at the map from the side, sorta like a cake with many layers. If you could look at each of these individual data layers, you’d be able to process and understand a lot more data without much more effort. With that idea got rolling in my head, and my love for the Holodeck (something I’ve always been inspired by as a Star Trek fan), sprouted the idea to view data multidimensionally. And thus, the germ of BadVR was born!

What is the mission of BadVR?

BadVR’s mission is to democratize insight and empower everyone to understand their data, regardless of technical background or skill. We achieve this by porting very large, complex data sets in virtual and augmented reality to make them easily understood and easily accessible by everyone. Currently, there is a bottleneck when it comes to data access within many organizations. Data analysts and data scientists are often the only ones who are properly trained to interact directly with a company’s data. However, everyone within an organization knows they need to make data driven decisions. So what happens is everyone tries to make decisions based off data that must, by necessity, go through data analysts & scientists to be understood, and this takes an immense amount of time and puts a large burden on data teams, who are often not well skilled in translating the results of their analyses to laymen. 
 
 These inefficiencies in the process of working with data end up causing people to make decisions which are not data driven (despite knowing the data exists and it’s better to use it) simply because they do not have the time to wait for the data to be pulled and analyzed. BadVR revolutionizes this process. We make data accessible to everyone within an organization. All it takes is a headset and immediately the data is available to all team members in an intuitive, easy to use, easy to analyze, and most importantly, easy to share format.

Another cool thing with BadVR — everybody views the same data. They are not viewing one analyst’s interpretation of the data. We currently live in a world in which the power to control the narratives derived from data is concentrated to a select group of trained individuals. The way they run an analysis can dramatically change the story told by the data. There is a lot of room for bias and for people who do have control over data to inject their own viewpoint into their analyses. We all benefit from having data be accessible to everyone. These additional, varying perspectives will yield new perspectives and lead to some interesting insights!

How do you envision BadVR’s impact on sectors like financial services and smart cities?

Financial services are one of those areas where data visualization has always been highly valuable. The more information a financial analyst can ingest, the informed their decisions become and the higher the likelihood that they’ll discover valuable hidden market trends. Where do we come in? We visualize markets in real-time. One of the features that sets our product apart is our ability to allow users to look at data in real time and to manipulate and filter that data in real-time. Our product is naturally a good fit for financial services because this is a sector that values the speed at which data can be gathered and analyzed.

Regarding smart cities — as our cities become smarter and more connected it will become increasingly important to view, monitor, and react to the data that’s being gathered from arrays of smart city sensors. The data collected by these senors is only as good as our ability to work with it to improve the lives of people living within these communities. From utility planning, 5G installations, to monitoring crime rates — BadVR enables real-time geo-spatial data to be viewed on the neighborhood, city, or even nationwide level in a way that is accessible to everyone. This will speed up the deployment of cutting edge technology to our communities and allow the public to easily access the data collected about them as well. It is important to empower people with a way to maintain, edit, and control the privacy of their data. BadVR will be vital for both planning smart city installations and monitoring the data generated by these installments once they are completed.

What do you think you can contribute to/gain from DAIA?

I love that DAIA’s goal is to democratize AI. It fits in nicely with BadVR’s goal to democratize data! We share a mission to decentralize power from one single place and give that power back to normal people who are affected by these revolutionary technologies. BadVR has plenty of experience working with data and displaying it intuitively. Bringing that wealth of knowledge to DAIA is powerful because to democratize access to anything, one must first make it understandable by everyone. This alliance between DAIA and BadVR is a great example of everything I believe in — gathering like-minded people, who share the same values, to work together, with each person contributing their own unique talents, towards achieving a worthwhile, grand vision of equality. The antidote to a dystopian future is community, so I strongly encourage all the other amazing projects associated with DAIA to stay engaged to ensure our dreams of a better world are achieved!

BadVR recently demonstrated the first public showcase of SeeSignal. What is SeeSignal and what can we expect to see from BadVR moving forward?

SeeSignal is an augmented reality application we built in partnership with Magic Leap. Traditionally, charts and graphs have been used to visualize and analyze data. Instead, we imagine a future in which data is analyzed via immersive ‘data environments.’ 
 
 SeeSignal is BadVR’s one of our standardized ‘data environments.’ In this environment, we display environment contextual network data, such as a wifi, Bluetooth, or cellular signal data. With a Magic Leap headset users can easily view the digital signal data around them holistically and multi-dimensionally, instead of in single slices. Our technology will be incredibly beneficial to telecommunications companies as they plan out their 5G network deployments, among many of it’s uses.

I am very excited to announce that the SeeSignal application will be available in the Magic Leap World store this summer, and will give everyone a taste of what is coming from our full platform release, scheduled for next year.

How can the general public follow along with BadVR’s innovations?

The best way to keep up with all things BadVR is by following us on Twitter: @BadVR_Inc. I always share our latest updates, along with spicy hot takes on immersive tech, data, and a host of other topics via my Twitter feed as well — you can find me here: @SuzanneBorders. 
 
 For even more information, you can go to www.badvr.com. While you are there make sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop, or request a demo!

Interview conducted by Chantel Costa and Adam Spodek — DAIA Press Team

How can you get involved?

The vision of DAIA is to foster a world where AI technologies and associated data are made open with decentralized, democratic control for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The immense potential of AI means that it can either increase the inequalities of our societies or liberate us from numerous sufferings. We believe the best way forward is to come together and work practically toward creating a better future. We see a massive potential for evolution in the established centralized corporations. We believe tech giants can contribute immensely toward making the vision of DAIA a reality.

DAIA welcomes the participation of those corporations that are sincere about their aim and goal of democratizing AI. The open access networks that have come together to form DAIA are the enabling layer for such a democratization process.

To learn more about us and inquire for memberships, please contact us at team@daia.foundation.