Visualizing Time-Oriented Data in Virtual Reality Environment

JUN. 2019


As an exploration of visualizing information in a virtual reality environment, this project attempts to combine visual complexity with a convenient and manageable information presentation system, including ray-casting pointing and teleporting techniques. The data used in this project are daily check-out data of the Star Wars movies, from 2005 to 2018, retrieved from the Seattle Public Library, and the local news headlines on corresponding dates from the Seattle Times. This project was developed in Unity for the Oculus Rift headset and the Oculus Touch controllers.

Advisor: George Legrady

Tools: Unity, Oculus Rift, VRTK


This project aims to design and develop an immersive data observing experience in a virtual reality environment by visualizing and organizing time-oriented data. A three-dimensional spiral timeline was implemented on a circular coordinate with a radius of 30 meters in the virtual scene. The height of each node on the spiral represents the daily check-out data of the movies. Since each lap of the spiral contains a data from one year, fourteen layers of data nodes from eleven categories (ten movies from the franchise and a sum category,) constitute the intricate structure with each node connects to its neighbors. The user could use a ray-casting pointer emitted from the right controller to activate the data contained in each data nodes.
Because the size of this structure is too large for the user to observe the overview of the visualization, a mini-map with a radius of 15 centimeters was attached to the left controller. This mini-map contains a smaller replica of the full-scaled visualization, which enables the user to observe the overview with greater ease. To fill the significant gap in size between the mini-map and the full-scale structure, a scaling interface which would be used to shrink the scene was added so that the user could recognize more details in the overview.
As for the displacement in the scene, the user will either walk within the region tracked by the Oculus sensors or pick a destination to teleport. The mini-map and the shrunken structure in the scaling interface mentioned above could also be used for teleporting, especially for the long-distance displacement.

Processing Prototype

The movie shown in the visualization are:
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (19 May 1999),
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (16 May 2002),
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (19 May 2005),
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (25 May 1977),
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (20 June 1980),
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (25 May 1983),
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (18 December 2015),
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (16 December 2016),
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (15 December 2017),
Solo: A Star Wars Story (25 May 2018).
All the ten movies are asigned a particular color.

The lines connecting the nodes from the same date but different years are showing. There are 365 lines in total, which means for each line, or each date in this case, a unique angle was assgined. However, the February 29th in the three leap years, 2008, 2012, 2016 were skipped as they are discrete. Each line contains 14 nodes at the 14 intersactions of the main data lines mapped on the spiral. And because 10 movies are sharing the same coordinate system, for each date, 10 lines in different colors are juxtaposed to show different patterns among different movies. Also, these lines filled the gaps between every circles which highlight the overall patterns of all the data.

In the figure above, the data on 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, and 2018 were selected.

The data on February, June, July, September, and Devember in the year 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2018 were selected.

All the nodes are able to be elevated to exaggerate the difference and the pattern.

In the top view, the gaps and break points, which means no check-out record was found that day, are easier to observe when showing individual movie. The figure above shows the data on Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

The original Trilogy. The brightest blue in the figure is showing the data on Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

Pink is asigned to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Because the release date of this movie is December 16th, 2016, before December 2016, no check-out record exists.

Monthly data were added to the visualization to show the overall pattern. Surfaces were drawn to hihhlight the change in data. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace is shown in the image.

Monthly mesh for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.

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