IBM Immersive Data: Augmented Reality for data visualization.

This year at the IBM THINK conference, we introduce our newest augmented reality tool for data visualization IBM Immersive Data.

IBM Immersive Data screens

This year at THINK, IBM’s annual super-conference that showcases the technology and innovations across its entire portfolio, our team was excited to introduce the new IBM Immersive Data for iOS devices and its integration into one of the most powerful and interesting analytics tools, IBM Watson Studio. IBM Immersive Data is an augmented reality visualization tool that allows data scientists and business executives to quickly explore and understand data. Different from our past experience for headsets, the new iOS app allow our users visualize their data in augmented reality using iPhones and iPads.

IBM Immersive Data team at THINK in San Francisco, CA
Augmented Reality will open space barriers and will transform the way we analyze information. We are empowering the user to visualize complex information in a simple way. — David Townsend, Design Director, IBM Analytics

Why AR for Data visualization?

We began exploring the concept of augmented reality (AR) for data visualization with our award winning headset experience, IBM Immersive Insights.

AR allows the user to experience multiple viewpoints. Visualizing data in 3D allows users to uncover trends and patterns that may not be immediately visible with 2D visualizations.

With AR visualization, our users have given us feedback that they have an easier time noticing outliers and patterns because they are able to approach or back away from the visualization.

“The power of 3D only comes out when you’re in true 3D, when you’re looking around it.” — Stefan Van Der Stockt, IBM Data Scientist
Data Scientist exploring a dataset with IBM Immersive Data

Humans live in and navigate through a 3D world. Interacting with AR objects is a natural and intuitive way to understand and learn.

Our users are drawn to the physicality of the data. One user likened AR to using a physical textbook vs. an e-book. With a physical book, you can see the big picture, it creates a more physical experience: the size of the book, the structure of the contents, the layout of the information etc. With an e-book, although that information is technically available to you, it’s not as readily understood.

“Immersion provides benefits beyond the traditional desktop visualization tools: it leads to a demonstrably better perception of a dataspace geometry, more intuitive data understanding, and a better retention of the perceived relationships in the data.” — Nasa and Caltech.

Immersive visualizations enable you to see many dimensions in the data at the same time. It can be difficult to see a lot of variables on a computer screen but it’s easy in AR. With Immersive Data, our users can easily adjust variables in a visualization to change the information they’re seeing. Our tool gives users the ability to compare multiple data visualizations side by side or even overlay them.

Use cases:

Thanks to IBM Immersive Data, people will be able to explore their datasets in multiple dimensions using our integration with IBM Watson Studios. Another advantage of the use of AR for data analysis, is that the application easily integrates with day to day tools that are already a part of users’ workflow.

We envision two main use cases:

Data Exploration:

Data scientists would use Immersive Data at multiple stages during their data exploration process.
While the bulk of the data manipulation and analysis would still take place in notebooks, 3D data visualizations are an important tool that enables the user to see the effects of their work, confirm their analyses, and make further observations.

Presentation:

People spend a lot of time presenting the findings of their work. On a daily basis, they share discoveries and collaborate with colleagues. At the end of the day, they typically show their work to a manager. And on a larger scale, they need to present to stakeholders to secure funding and approval.

Our users are excited about the power of Immersive Data as a presentation tool. They can use the tool to share discoveries and collaborate with colleagues, and to present to managers or stakeholders. They want to save visualizations to take their audience on a visual journey. They feel strongly that 3D visualizations help tell a coherent story about the data and allow the stakeholder to better engage and understand.

“With a big presentation, it’s all storytelling. If the VP doesn’t have an intuitive feeling of what it does, they won’t use it. But if you have the ability to play with the data, then the person gets what the business is all about.”
Stefan Van Der Stockt — IBM Data Scientist
Collaboration and presentation is one of our key use cases

This year at THINK, it was great hearing so much positive feedback and excitement from our clients and partners in our demo areas and UX sessions, and we are very happy to see how our project has evolve. This is just the beginning. IBM Immersive Data will soon be available to download for free in Apple Store, and we’ll be sure to share more updates.

IBM Immersive Data — THINK 2019