Data Visualization Using Augmented Reality

Document Type


Lead Author Type

CIS Masters Student


Dr. Jonathan Engelsma; jonathan.engelsma@gvsu.edu

Embargo Period



Data visualization in computer science has been limited to computer screens and paper printouts. Often information can be displayed to the user, but it lacks context. Augmented reality technologies enable us to add context to the information. The goal was to experiment with embedding data representations into the physical world using augmented reality. The Unity™ game development platform was chosen to develop the models. C# was used to develop software to retrieve and direct data to user facing objects. It is also used to manipulate graph objects to display new graph data. Unity™ also offers plugins that allow for developers to use the recently released Apple ARKit® APIs for augmented reality development. Several user interactions were developed to allow the user to select and place graphs.

To date most of the experiences with augmented reality have been associated with the gaming industry. However, the technology has the possibility to impact a much broader audience. Augmented reality provides a unique way to synthesize data and the physical world in a way rarely seen in computer science. It can provide context to data representing physical objects by visualizing the data in the physical world.

The project demonstrates that data can be visualized using augmented reality. One of the most exciting observations is that this method can help contextualize data. Limitations in the augmented reality make some interactions less natural. Placing graphs require a horizontal surface, or extreme model drift is observed. However, the APIs are relatively new, and updates are available that might facilitate better user interactions.

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