Curiously, VR is rearing its head at the same time big data and artificial intelligence technologies are washing ashore in businesses across the globe. As I’m sure it’s been hammered into everyone’s head, Big Data is the answer for everything (if you tend to believe the hyperbole) – unless AI is the answer. When looking at any number of Big Data articles, a common refrain is that more nuanced results come from more causes that combine in ways that were heretofore impossible to calculate, much less visualize with current technology.
What does Big Data look like? The more-or-less tangible manifestation of it is typically large databases which have a number of interlocking tables that connect data in ways that a piece of paper would have a hard time containing. It could also be large amounts of unstructured data or perhaps real-time streams of the stuff. Any one of these aspects make dumping data into a spreadsheet quite difficult to possibly impossible prospect. That also means we’ve essentially started butting against ends of what two dimensional spreadsheets can do without doing an excessive amount programming behind the scenes.
The world isn’t as simple as what spreadsheets can display, either. Or, more to the point, perhaps we’ve already harvested the bulk of the easy correlations and causations that can be seen. A great analogy is the bounty of insights found simply from moving data from paper records to the computer and having the capability to apply basic math capabilities to that data. The simple ones sound like knowing right now what the balance sheet looks like. Or even better, being able to show percentage values of where a firm spends money. Maybe even plotting product quality data to find unseen trends. That was cutting edge in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but what was cutting edge yesterday is just not enough in the business of today and certainly not in the future.
Perhaps the next step in office applications is when we not just view but operate on these data sets in their multidimensional world rather than working to transcribe them into dumber formats. The ability to enter that 4D space with VR allows us to have that opportunity.
Increasingly we’ll also see artificial intelligence seep into our workplaces as well. It won’t enter through the Hollywood portrayals, it’ll come in small ways. Smarter applications that solve the easier problems and eventually round up insights on the usual subjects. Those usual subjects are the same ones that we spend a lot of time creating complex spreadsheets for. Humans won’t have to do that anymore. We’ll need to focus on where there’s more ambiguity, sensitivity and creativity for as long as it takes before our AI overlords to catch up.
All this means we’ll increasingly see ourselves operating on projects of increasing complexity during our workdays. How better to do so than to bring the benefits of VR to the business world. I could only guess what these applications will look like but I’m sure that they will allow us greater ease in manipulating greater density data – because that’s what the future looks like for the human worker.