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Is Augmented, Virtual Reality the Future of Data Visualization?

The Wilmot Cancer Institute is looking to AR/VR for data visualization beyond dashboards.

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Organizations have been looking to data as a driver of decision-making, but the ability to visualize data is a critical step in making raw data actionable. But what happens when dashboards aren’t enough to help visualize mass amounts of data?

The Wilmot Cancer Institute is exploring this question and answering it with augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

The institute has been on a journey to better leverage data for cancer research, administration and care in recent years. Wilmot has gone from a state of having limited access to federated and siloed data to developing a federated data warehouse, called Hyperion.

“It’s just combining datasets from EHRs, from government sources, to get real-time datasets, which is the foundation of where this stuff comes from,” Wilmot Informatics Director Eric Snyder said during the HIMSS conference in Orlando, Florida, Wednesday. “It’s ended up reducing and recording times from months to days, and most likely hours in some cases.”

From building Hyperion, Snyder said his team developed data dashboards for better ingestion and visualization of data. This resulted in Wilmot’s Cancer Visual Analytic System, CANVAS, which provides two-dimensional dashboard visualization. This format, however, is limited when users want to visualize massive amounts of data, leading his team to the development of an AR/VR data visualization solution that builds off the Hyperion infrastructure.

Although the AR/VR project is in its early stages, Snyder’s team has iterated and engaged with the institute’s user community to develop AR/VR geospatial analysis. Using a VR headset, the tool takes EHR data, smoke shop locations and other data components from the Hyperion database for geospatial analysis. These components are visualized in a VR geographical map of given areas, enabling a more robust vision of geospatial trends for cancer research than dashboards and graphs.

Throughout the process, Snyder’s team has added unlimited overlays, custom animations and other components to customize data searches for users in the tool.

Synder said he built user interfaces that show data such as telehealth on the map behind head-up displays and opted for a rolodex display for scrolling through different information. Snyder’s team is also incorporating social determinants of health elements to the AR/VR tool after hearing feedback from users requesting those features.

In the future, Snyder hopes to continue improving the tool. He aims to develop a real-time collaborative environment, enable customization on HUD metrics, animate weather maps in the geospatial backdrop and create recording functionality.

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