As a lover of the arts and a futurist, I’m a strong believer that the creation of the metaverse is going to rest largely on the shoulders of creative individuals. So naturally, I was thrilled to join former punk rocker and published poet turned CEO and co-founder of BadVR, Suzanne Borders. BadVR is the world’s first immersive data visualisation and analytics platform, bringing data in high definition, making it easier to discover and identify hidden problems and opportunities and help businesses make better decisions. The rapidly-growing tech startup has attracted industry attention with its pioneering AR and VR demos, allowing people to literally step inside their data. Before founding BadVR in 2018, Suzanne led product and UX design at 2D data analytics companies. She’s received grants from the Magic Leap’s Independent Curators Program as well as the National Science Foundation. As an artist herself, Suzanne is a big believer in the artistry of technology and the technicality of art.
Prior to founding BadVR, Suzanne worked as a product and UX designer at 2D data visualisation and analytics companies, specifically those working with geospatial data and companies with non-technical end users. During this time, she worked with really large data sets and had to work to find a way to translate those visually and experientially for non-technical people. This brought her to “holodeck-inspired” ideas, which used AR and VR to bring massive amounts of data to life and make it more accessible to non-technical end users. Once technological advancements in AR/VR hardware started to advance, Suzanne recognised her opportunity to pounce, which is when she quit her job and founded BadVR.
It was completely fascinating to hear about how Suzanne’s company uses both AR and VR to revolutionise the way clients interface with data. Her design process always “starts from a clean slate,” throwing away all the preconceived notions of 2D data, since traditional charts and graphs aren’t optimised to immersive technology. For an AR experience, clients can wear a headset and use their product C Signal to see their entire wifi cellular and Bluetooth network in real time, overlaid onto their real environment. Here, clients see “signal sticks” throughout their environment, where their colour can represent the strength of their wifi network and connectivity, making it possible to actually see this information visually contextualised. VR experiences generally are used for data without a geospatial tie that might not be real-time– so historical data sets, for example. For these, BadVR creates a “data stadium,” where clients are able to sit inside of a huge virtual stadium and see millions of individual data points organised in rows and sections. This helps them see macro trends with the simultaneous ability to drill down to each individual data point in section to see micro information, which is really exciting.
We also traced the evolution of BadVR, how gaining the backing of Magic Leap truly allowed her—if you’ll excuse the pun— to take a leap forward in getting her business to the next level, and how much went into making it happen. We also traced her own evolution, which began with a career in psychology, and organically moved to website and graphic design because of her side work designing MySpaces and message boards for local bands. She never considered herself a coder, as it’s infuriatingly detail-oriented, but once she learned about UX UI design, it completely clicked as the perfect way to fuse her interest in how human brains work and how we interact with things alongside her interest in technology.
Given Suzanne’s amazingly diverse background, our conversation took a number of fascinating turns, from digging into the psychology behind AI—which she sees “as sort of an extension of the human mind” and a way to unlock our subconscious—to what “the art of technology” entails, to her creative and technological heroes. To hear more of Suzanne’s insights, where she thinks the future’s taking us, and what’s in store for her, her company, and VR as a whole, you can listen to the full episode here.