Graph-Based Data Visualization in Virtual Reality: A Comparison of User Experiences

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Virtual reality is currently in the spotlight, attracting intense scrutiny by the press, technology companies, and consumers. After twenty years of dormancy, the technology has experienced a renaissance following advancements in both hardware and software. Most of these developments, and thus press attention, have been centered on entertainment. However, if the technology is going to continue to grow, it must be useful in a wide variety of situations. This paper explores the effectiveness of visualizing data in virtual reality in comparison to traditional presentations. In this thesis, we present an approach to displaying data in a virtual reality environment. We drew upon various visualization and design principles in two dimensions (2D) and extended and implemented them in three dimensions (3D). Finally, we experimented with animations to highlight how the immersive qualities of virtual reality could help direct the user's attention to important features. To verify our work, we tested users' ability to understand worldwide economic data represented as graphs. We measured the speed and accuracy of each subject's responses as they viewed the economic data in two environments: a virtual reality (VR) environment using the Oculus Rift to look at our 3D animated chart, and a more traditional environment with a series of 2D paper charts. We concluded that for newcomers to VR, 2D charts are faster and more accurate. However, 3D visualizations are more engaging and are superior when searching for certain kinds of information such as the highest and lowest values in a set.

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... Sra and C. Schmandt, 2016). In other research work, traditional input devices such as keyboard and mouse are paired with head-mounted displays, to take advantage of stereoscopic display using a familiar interface for interaction (Sullivan, 2016). In the last few years, scientists have started to experiment and propose new approaches for applying the full suite of virtual reality technology to information visualisation. ...
... The literature contains several papers on effective visualisations using virtual reality for graph exploration, where researchers conclude that virtual reality can be leveraged to improve both readability and the user experience (A. Pachas-Baños, J. De La Cruz-Leyva and P. Shiguihara-Juárez, 2019) (Erra, Malandrino and Pepe, 2018) (Sullivan, 2016). ...
... The researchers conducted the study in order to provide an insight of expected tracking errors for similar HTC Vive setups in other work. Sullivan concluded that 3D visualisation in virtual reality can increase the user's engagement, if they are familiar with the technology (Sullivan, 2016). An evaluation into navigation techniques showed that Two handed flying was the preferred movement approach for sizeable data visualisations (Drogemuller et al., 2018). ...
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Researchers in varies fields working with 3D graphs still rely on the monitor, a traditional output device, as the leading means of visualisation for a computer system. The main reason for this is the fact that researchers are accustomed to primary input devices, namely the keyboard and mouse to modify and interact with computer generated content. The aim of this research is to create a prototype control scheme for an existing project utilising graphs for data exploration and representation in virtual reality. This paper proposes an alternative medium to visualise 3D graphs, one that allows free movement and interaction in 3D space. A virtual reality (VR) graph interaction prototype that integrated with an existing game application making use of 3D graphs to enable visual interaction in three-dimensional space was developed. The prototype functionality enabled graph transformations using grammar operators and property modifiers. A questionnaire was distributed to participants in order to gather qualitative feedback on the prototype application after a set of tasks were completed. The results show that it is possible to use virtual reality technology to efficiently perform data retrieval tasks using 3D graph visualisations given that training is provided to users who are unfamiliar with virtual reality.
... ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-6063-0/18/12. including prior attempts at utilizing the node-link display in a VR environment [Sullivan 2016]. Due to the recent popularity of head mounted displays (HMD) for virtual reality (VR) applications and gaming, we developed a graph visualization method in VR, and performed a user study to evaluate the effectiveness of using HMDs as a data visualization tool. ...
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