WSJ Amazon-HaveKindleWillTravel 20160514WSJ today bought this image to my attention. It is an advertisement for Amazon Kindle, highlighting its mobility. The message is… You can immerse yourself in an ebook anywhere in the world. This situation is a competition between Cusco in Peru and Amazon Kindle for delivering an immersive experience. Which one will win, given this dude?

Or, will there be a blending of experiences? Maybe the ebook is about identifying the high mountain ranges of Peru. Further, instead of a Kindle, what if he had a Samsung Gear VR in his hands? Or, instead of perching on a Peruvian mountainside, what if he was sitting in his living room? Would any of these situations change the immersive experience?

A recurring theme for the IA community is understanding the immersive experience and why/how it is useful. Why did this person take a Kindle on this hike? I know, Amazon paid him to make this ad. But imagine that you are starting on a lovely hike, would you (and why would you) take an ebook reader? Is it to enhance the experience of the hike? Or, are you easily bored and need to escape the physical realities of the hike. Or, are you in the middle of a good novel whose virtual reality constantly beckons you?

Let’s take this situation one level deeper. Assume that this person is a geologist investigating mud slides that have killed several persons last week. He is advising local authorities on whether to evacuate villages in the Peruvian mountains. Now the situation is serious – much more than a leisurely hike. He has probably studied satellite images and viewed the region from a helicopter recently. Now it is boots-on-the-ground to poke at the rocks.

Would he bring a Kindle? Maybe, but more likely a full tablet with those satellite images and all the geo-data for this region. Would he bring a Gear VR? Maybe, if his helicopter was rigged with a full VR camera that took hi-res 3D images of this same mountain slope. Now he could re-experience the fly-over so that he could precisely position himself to take soil samples.

It seems likely that, as VR technology matures, it will become seamlessly integrated into our daily activities, for simple entertainment or for serious endeavors. Immersive analytics will come along for the ride! Our geologist may use his tablet to create a few Qlik sheets comparing the history of mud slides for this region, while using his Gear VR to run earthquake simulations showing flow patterns for mud slides.

The challenge for the IA community is to create immersive data worlds that will enable our geologist perform his work more effectively. According to the virtuality continuum of Milgram & Kishilo, where will immersive analytics be more effective? Will it be augmented reality (like Hololens) or augmented virtuality (like Gear VR)? To answer these questions, we will need to understand the immersive experience and why/how it is useful.

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