We thought of DataRift while searching for a way to use Virtual Reality to address a real world problem. 3D Visualization is an ideal method for concisely displaying massive amounts of data in a manner that encourages continuous thought. A 360 degree field of vision, combined with an infinite sandbox, means that any data is just a head turn away. One visualization that inspired us in particular is armsglobe.chromeexperiments.com. We believe this style of visualization has the potential to be even more effective in Virtual Reality.
How it works
DataRift takes in, processes and displays various CSV files. We conceptualized DataRift as an quick and concise aggregate of international relations data. DataRift uses Three.js, which is built on top of WebGL, and WebVR to run this Virtual Reality visualization within the browser. The trackpad or mouse can be used to rotate the selected globe. The arrow keys are used to rotate the other globes into selection, and 'r' and 'e' can be used to further manipulate the selected globe. Each globe represents one country and its top ten import and export partners (by the monetary value of the exchange). Lines between countries represent exports and imports with blue and red, and the magnitude of the line represents the amount of money involved. Currently, the four countries supported are China, France, Japan, and the United States.
Challenges I ran into
Displaying text accurately, navigating the challenges of local coordinate systems rotated within a larger context, and displaying the data concisely were some of the challenges we dealt with.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
It's awesome to have a (relatively) finished product! It's so fun just to use it and learn from our own creation. We're proud to be involved in a new area of information visualization, which we believe has an incredible amount of as yet unrealized potential.
What I learned
We learned how to use Three.js! Although everyone on the team has WebGL experience, none of us had worked with Three.js before. It's also our first time working on the Rift together.
What's next for DataRift
The original plan was actually more involved than what we currently have. We'd like each globe to display an aggregate of many different types of international relations data, such as energy, immigration, and treaties. Then, upon pushing enter, the selected globe could expand into several different globes representing each of these data types. By providing this increased depth of analysis, we believe DataRift could become a tool that would even be useful for professionals dealing with international investment and policy.