Organizations are always looking for new ways to manage and interpret data. As their ability to collect more and different types of data continues to grow, they must also look for new ways to display and interact with that information in order to make effective decisions. One interesting approach involves the use of augmented reality to present dynamic, interactive models.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality (AR) refers to the process by which digitally created images and elements are overlaid upon the physical world. The technology typically requires goggles/glasses capable of displaying images or a device with a camera and display screen, like a smartphone or tablet. An AR display essentially operates like a filter that allows users to see and interact with the physical environment even as they view digital displays.
Although there are many exciting potential use cases for the technology, AR got off to a bit of a slow start due to the limitations of hardware and connectivity. Bandwidth, latency, and processing limitations placed serious constraints on how many elements could be displayed and how well they could adapt to rapid user inputs. Smartphone apps like Pokemon GO became early showcases for the technology, but developers and engineers have long had higher aspirations for AR than allowing people to hunt for Pokemon in their backyards.
But these limitations are being overcome rapidly. By combining a new generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices with far more powerful processing capabilities and the potential for lightning-fast wireless connectivity through 5G cellular networks, AR developers may finally have the opportunity to explore the full potential of this innovative technology.
AR vs VR: What’s the Difference?
Any discussion of AR generally creates some confusion because of AR’s close relationship with virtual reality (VR). Oddly, the average consumer often finds it much easier to conceptualize what VR looks like and how it functions, whereas AR strikes them as more ephemeral. That could be due to VR’s surprisingly long history in popular culture.
The primary difference between AR and VR is the level of immersion. While AR simply displays digital elements over the physical world, VR is a completely digital experience. The user must wear a special headset that not only blocks out the world around them, but also projects a completely virtual, 365° view of a digitally generated environment. Since a VR user only sees the digital display, they must typically stand in place or remain in a relatively small area to avoid walking into something. With AR, however, the user can move about freely. Because people using AR can interact with both digital and physical elements at the same time, the technology is sometimes referred to as mixed reality (MR).
Augmented Reality and Data Interpretation
Displaying data in new and interesting ways may not sound like the most exciting or innovative use of AR technology, but it’s actually one of the use cases that could have the greatest long-term impact. In the era of big data, finding ways to display data in formats that help to convey the implications of it has proven quite challenging for many organizations. For decades, companies have relied upon spreadsheets, graphs, and charts to present data in meaningful ways. That may have been effective in an era when data sets were limited, but modern analytics tools have the ability to generate far greater insights that are often difficult to capture on a static, two-dimensional graph.
The way data is displayed has a massive impact on the way it’s interpreted and the way people engage with it. Presenting an overabundance of complex information can make it difficult for them to distinguish what is important or how different pieces of data interact with each other. Thanks to interactive AR technology, many companies are now experimenting with three-dimensional visualizations of data that users can easily interact with.
Imagine, for example, a dataset that shows consumer data in a particular area. An AR display can generate an interactive map of the area and then plot a variety of data points to visualize different metrics. People could walk around the map and interact with various points to draw up different pieces of data when needed. Displaying data in this format would provide a familiar visual reference point while still showcasing a broad range of information.
Data Centers and AR Technology
In order to take advantage of AR’s full potential, organizations will need to have the robust IT infrastructure in place to both manage large quantities of data and deploy low-latency IoT networks to AR-enabled devices. Edge data centers, which are located closer to end users, will form an essential part of this infrastructure. If AR platforms experience too much latency, the lagging digital elements will create a disjointed user experience. By keeping most key processing functions close to the edge of the network through a combination of IoT devices and edge data centers, organizations can ensure that their AR networks maintain high levels of performance.
Most AR programs will require substantial processing power to generate complex digital images in real-time. While much of this processing will be handled locally by powerful IoT devices, they will also need information to work with when it comes to displaying data. Big data analytics software can process massive amounts of unstructured data to deliver valuable insights, but not every organization has the capacity to build and maintain its own analytics platforms.
Fortunately, cloud computing services can give them the ability to manage and process big data more effectively. That’s why it’s important to have a data center partner that can deliver connectivity access to the world’s leading cloud computing platforms. Building a hybrid IT infrastructure allows companies to keep their essential data and applications safe and secure within a private network while still being able to leverage the expansive power of cloud computing.
Unlock the Potential of AR with vXchnge
With data centers located in key growth markets across the country, vXchnge colocation services can deliver edge computing functionality organizations need to deploy their AR platforms with minimal latency. Thanks to our direct cloud on-ramps, they can also build the hybrid IT environments necessary to unlock the potential of big data processing. Our data centers are engineered for perfection and backed by 100% uptime SLAs to ensure that your essential systems remain up and running when you need them most. To learn more about how vXchnge colocation services can support your latest AR innovations, talk to one of our data center experts today.