May 20, 2015

The Big Data VR Challenge Gets Under Way with an International Line Up of Participants

By Dana Cowley

This unique Challenge seeks to discover new ways to interpret and analyse big data

20 May 2015 – The Big Data VR Challenge, organised by Epic Games and the Wellcome Trust, has announced the six teams that have been selected to participate in the competition, as well as the research projects each team is addressing. The Challenge seeks to harness the skills of the games industry and the emerging VR community to find new ways to manipulate and interrogate huge data sets that are now generated by many science studies.

A prize of $20,000 will be awarded to the best concept which will be demonstrated, judged and announced at the Develop:Brighton conference in July.

The Challenge’s official teams are:

Pi and Power Canada
Soluis Scotland
LumaPie England
Opaque Multimedia Australia
Hammerhead VR England
Skip the Intro Netherlands

Big Data VR Challenge participants are working closely with scientists from each research project in order to create genuinely collaborative solutions. All involved are able to share progress and ideas with each other during monthly workshops held over the course of the Challenge.

The Challenge’s official science initiatives are:

The Casebooks Project based at Cambridge University. This project is creating a digital edition of one of the largest surviving sets of medical records in history – 80,000 consultations recorded by Simon Forman and Richard Napier, two sixteenth and seventeenth century physician-astrologers.
Teams: Skip the Intro and Soluis

ALSPAC/Children of the 90s based at the University of Bristol. This project is a world-leading birth cohort study that recruited more than 14,000 pregnant women between April 1991 and December 1992. The children arising from those pregnancies, and their partners, have been followed up intensively over two decades, resulting in huge amount of data captured.
Teams: LumaPie and Opaque Multimedia

The Genome Browser at the Sanger Institute, Cambridge. Genome browsers are widely used amongst genome researchers; yet interpreting the displayed data remains challenging. It is hoped that new opportunities will emerge for genome scientists by taking advantage of VR technology.
Teams: Pi and Power and Hammerhead VR

“The games industry has a unique ability to manage, manipulate and effectively present huge amounts of data, and that skill could potentially unlock a massive road block that has been confounding the science community for some time,” commented Mike Gamble, European Territory Manager at Epic Games.

“Big Data is being amassed within thousands of companies and organisations. Gathering and collating all of this information is great, but without a meaningful way of analyzing it, identifying patterns or sequences can be incredibly difficult. This Challenge, although relatively humble at this stage, could produce the tools required to grapple with the digital mountains of data that currently reside around the world today,” Gamble continued.

“This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting collaborative projects that I have seen during my time at Wellcome. This problem is a real issue for the science community and I really hope that the tremendous intellectual horsepower that exists within the games industry and the wider development community can be brought to bear within this Challenge and we find new ways to unlock the patterns, connections and solutions that lie within these big data sets,” commented John Williams, Head of Science Strategy, Performance and Impact at the Wellcome Trust.