#179: Visualizing Stock Market Data & Bringing VR to Wall Street with QuantVR

eric-greenbaumEric Greenbaum was at a New York Virtual Reality Meetup when someone from the financial industry came up to him with some ideas for how to use VR to analyze stock market data. They decided to collaborate on QuantVR and develop a prototype demo of a stock market platform and data visualization tool that was shown at the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo this spring.

Greenbaum’s business partner has a lot of experience within the financial industry, and they’ve using that insight to create different 3D visualizations of financial data in order see patterns within the data. They created a Ticker Tube view that fills up your entire field of view in VR with data from 300-400 stocks, but they believe that VR has the potential to go beyond just adding a lot more screen real estate for 2D data. They believe that 3D immersion has the potential to unlock new insights and democratize financial analysis that make the market even more competitive by smaller players.

Greenbaum’s business partner says that automated trading algorithms account for as much of 70% of the volume of trading, but that a lot of these automation tools have been developed in the absence of visualization tools. QuantVR is able to slow down and visualize the millions of transactions and actions that happen over a course of a second, which allows them to gain insight into how dumb some of these trading robot algorithms can be sometimes. Again, discovering these types of inefficiencies can translate into real dollars by finding a way to be more efficient.

Technology has disrupted the financial industry, and there’s been a lot of complexity introduced that has created a lot of fear due to that lack of understanding. So not only can there be applications for financial companies, but also for the government in order to improve their understanding and oversight of what’s happening.

One of the 3D visualizations that QuantVR created is the Stockscape view, which shows the market capitalization of the highest traded stocks as a city-scale landscape. You can hover around to the tops of different buildings representing the market cap size, and look around to compare the relative sizes from within an immersive environment. Scale is something that QuantVR has been experimenting with, and it’s still a bit of an open question as to whether having a city-scale or miniaturized-scale is more efficient.

Stocks move to common risk factors and so QuantVR has created different logical groupings of stocks to be able to watch trends of how those stocks are changing over the course of the day. There haven’t been a lot of 3D visualization tools, and so most of the financial analytic approaches have defaulted to a 2D representations.

QuantVR believes in the power of exploring what 3D has to add to analyzing data, and if they’re able to gain new insight into the market, then that could easily translate to having a competitive advantage in generating revenue for clients.

They’re actively beta testing their product with a high-profile client, but it seems as though the financial companies are going to be pretty tight-lipped about how these new immersive technologies might provide them with any specific competitive advantages.

Will 3D data visualization tools be the future of financial analysis? Or are there too many inefficiencies with the occlusion issues that are introduced into data visualization? That’s yet to be seen and QuantVR is on the forefront of exploring these issues. Yet I’d don’t honestly expect to get a lot of answers to these questions from Wall Street considering how much money could be at stake given what those answers might be.

The VR data visualization academics that I talked with at IEEE VR believe in the promise of 3D data visualization and analysis, but it’s usually data that is tied to actual 3D geometries — like correlating earthquake data onto a map of the earth. So the benefits of abstract data visualization with an immersive 3D environment are not immediately clear. Sometimes 2D charts and graphs are actually far superior and more efficient than trying to view the same data within a 3D context.

However, one thing that the academics agreed upon is that data that has a time dimension has a more clear use case for representing that change over time on the Z-axis. So stock market data certainly has a lot of potential for how that time data could be represented within VR.

Finally, QuantVR does sees that VR has the potential to democratize data analysis within the financial markets beyond the few, very elite quantitative masterminds. Their goal is to break down complex problems into a symbolic representation in an immersive environment that becomes intuitive for a user to understand a fuller spectrum of the dynamics of the marketplace. They hope that it’s going to make the market more competitive and ultimately better for all investors, and they’re looking forward to help making that happen with the power of VR.

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