UMD Team Builds DataWorld – an Augmented Reality that Visualizes Data in Everyday Settings

Mia K. Hinckle - August 9, 2019

UMD Team Builds DataWorld – an Augmented Reality that Visualizes Data in Everyday Settings

hand with phone and graphic labels on top of building

Augmented reality is an interactive experience of a real-world environment that is enhanced by computer-generated visuals. Imagine house hunting by walking through the neighborhood, looking at the street through your mobile device, and seeing a visual overlay of facts about the houses and area. Or while walking through a new city, viewing a visual overlay of information about restaurants, transit, sites, and history.

Integrating online data into our physical, outdoor spaces through augmented reality could enhance efficiency, accessibility, entertainment, data-driven decision making, and much more for professionals, policymakers, and citizens.

University of Maryland College of Information Studies (UMD iSchool) Professor Niklas Elmqvist (PI) and UMD iSchool Ph.D. candidate Andrea Batch are building DataWorld, an augmented reality framework that will make data about a geographic location visible in the real world.

In effect, DataWorld will blend the real world with the hidden world of data – allowing people to access and use the massive troves of data on the internet by literally putting it at their fingertips as part of the world around them. Data will be pulled from a wide variety of sources, such as social media, public databases, and popular websites, as well as contributions from DataWorld users.

DataWorld will gradually be deployed over the next three years at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) campus as a testbed, allowing students, faculty, and visitors to tune in to its “heartbeat” of events, alerts, and historical background. UMCP users will be able to access the DataWorld app through mobile devices or head-mounted displays and will be able to contribute to its data and development.

Once fine-tuned, the team will apply the DataWorld framework to three areas:

  • Public safety (sharing crime and emergency information)
  • History awareness (sharing historical stories and articles)
  • Civic awareness (sharing current events and sustainable practices)

The research team plans to publish educational materials and source code, making the NSF funded DataWorld platform open source.