In Analytics, Visualization

virtual reality 1

Your day-to-day computational work is about to change. Why? Because you don’t like sitting in a chair in order to interact with digital aspects of the world around you. Your mouse annoys you (albeit subconsciously), you don’t like opening apps and it is difficult for you to pay attention.

Imagine for a moment that your computer vanishes. The room goes white and suddenly you are in SpaceX headquarters doing what you always wanted: designing rockets. Yes my friend, you are now a rocket scientist. Impressive! The company has recently completed a successful vertical landing, bringing reusable rockets closer to reality and significantly reducing the cost of space exploration.

Elon Musk comes to you and asks you to further reduce the cost and increase the reliability of the vertical landings for future missions to Mars.
virtual reality 2

From a wobble projected by predictive models simulating vertical landing on Mars, you have a hunch that your Merlin Engines  are over correcting in the final 35 seconds of descent, meaning that more energy is being ‘thrust’ into the system than necessary (pardon the pun).

Context-based User Interface

virtual reality 3

As a SpaceX employee, you carry with you an Augmented Reality Headset, a pair of glasses allowing projected hologram rendering in three dimensions. You don your headset on and see a menu based on your location, context and calendar. Your schedule contains associated files, programs and tasks meaning that you don’t need to open anything else. It is all there, waiting for you.

Eye Sight Path Prediction

virtual reality 4

You can either use eye gaze or hand motion to explore your schedule. When you start working with the Mars simulator information, your attention is drawn to an analysis the company’s data science team performed the other day. You engage it.

As the chart comes up the green brackets draw your focus to two 270 degree thrusters that are both near the upper sigma limits, indicating that they could be outliers compared to previous computational predictions.

Accounting for Randomness

virtual reality board

Recall that sigma limits are three standard deviations from a mean. If a measurement lies outside of a sigma limit then it may not be random. Otherwise most measurements that deviate from the mean but remain within sigma bounds can be attributed to randomness.

The chart you see in the SpaceX demo shows how our measurement now compares to rocket thrusts from previous descents. One could assume that the 270 degree engines vary too much in their individual outputs at approximately 22 seconds in the descent of the rocket, causing the wobble

Thrust Variance by Time

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You acquaint yourself with a polar graph showing current rocket thrust variance from the mean of past launches. You can now see where in the descent groups of thrusters are firing and how that impacts over correction and fuel consumption.

virtual reality 6

Your novel idea is to run various scenarios through your flight simulator to see if total fuel expended decreases and reliability increases. After several trials you find a combination of timing and thrust that improves trajectory and conserves fuel. That will make Mr. Musk and the Board of Directors happy. Maybe they’ll move you to the Mars mission planning team.

Working with Augmented Reality

So why is Augmented Reality going to replace your PC? Because the world is not two-dimensional and static. Even if you aren’t designing rockets you need to see your data and analytics in the context of the problem you’re trying to solve.

Often, the data, the analytics, and the problem itself is three or dimensions. We need to be up, discovering, inspecting, and interacting with the world to inform our decisions and analyses. Sitting at desks working in two dimensions and asynchronously pinging static sources of data gives us too limited real-time inputs to be effective. It is the reason why even if you have three monitors at your workstation it still isn’t enough.

Still not convinced? You don’t need to be. You brain is largely dedicated to visual processing. Like it or not you reason through visual metaphor. Even Nikoli Tesla, physics god and namesake of Musk’s electric cars, said he could visualize all the moving parts of his machines in his mind.

You can check out a prototype of my AR interface design.

Special thanks:

  • UX Designers Ouliana Love and Virgilio Guevara for helping me iterate through the radial graph.
  • SpaceX for putting up the video using the leap motion. I used it as a background.
  • Physicist Paul Hofmann for helping me understand my chart does not approximate reentry to earth and may be better adapted to far less dense atmosphere.
  • Zaid Tashman, Data Scientist who found some fallacies in my original chart.
  • Authors Patrick Blau and Am Morgenberg for their break down of rocket re-entry.
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