Immersive technologies such as Oculus Rift are revolutionizing how big data is viewed and analyzed.  Instead of interacting with data on a 2D desktop screen, researchers and decision makers can immerse themselves in virtual workspaces where big data and analyses are represented in intuitive, immersive, and flexible ways. Immersive virtual reality (iVR) provides additional degrees of freedom for classic visual analytics tools such as 3D charts and graphs.

With the ready availability of massive amounts of environmental data and efficient 3D modeling technologies, realistic immersive scenarios are easier to create than ever before, which enables new methods of environmental decision making. The combination of iVR and automated 3D modeling enables models of real-world places to be integrated within data visualization workbenches. Imagine watching a 3D model of a levee in New Orleans grow taller in real-time in response to changes in a maintenance cost variable. Then, imagine witnessing that model being hit by a Category 4 hurricane.

How would having such interactive and immersive experiences change the understanding of scientists, stakeholders, and decision makers of complex environmental relations? How would it help a city planner’s decision-making process? This project proposes to lead Penn State into the bright future of immersive analytics by using the problem of decision making in New Orleans under deep uncertainty as a test bed for the application and testing of efficient 3D modeling workflows and immersive data analytics methods.