The company specializes in making big data easy to understand through creative analytics and visualisations. It collects data from across a business — everything from customer databases, to building management systems, to machine sensors and diagnostics — and displays it in formats that go beyond the typical chart or graph.
Earlier this month at the DistribuTECH utility industry expo, Space-Time presented its vision of a future in which big data analytics could merge with virtual reality. Instead of interpreting real-world problems from two-dimensional numerical abstractions, participants used Oculus Rift headsets to explore a virtual-reality version of the actual equipment and environment that produced the data.
The demo took place in a simulated power grid substation with several pieces of malfunctioning equipment — which, because this is virtual reality, can be indicated by simulating the problem (shooting off sparks, belching pixelated smoke) or simply by having the entire machine flash an unmistakable red. Walking up to any machine or component, users toggle an overlay showing current data from sensors, diagnostics, and other systems that machine is tied into.
Interpreting the reports is, theoretically, easier when you’re looking at the equipment in context and can see exactly where the problem has occurred and why it matters. And by tying the simulation into other business systems, repairs can be ordered and maintenance crews dispatched at the push of a virtual button.
Of course, this kind of simulated-context presentation doesn’t need to rely on an immersive virtual reality getup like the Oculus — it would be completely possible and very nearly as effective in two dimensions on a standard computer screen. And the idea of presenting data via 3-D recreation may turn out to be more of a gimmick or niche product than a revolution in analytics.
But at first blush, this use of virtual and augmented reality for machine data seems plausibly intuitive and certainly aligns with Space-Time Insight’s goal of providing “situational intelligence” for the Internet of Things.
See the Oculus Rift demo for yourself in the video below.