We've seen a handful of neat ways to visualize big data and make it useful, and the folks behind Unreal Engine, Epic Games, think virtual reality is the next step for that. Currently a half-dozen international teams are taking part in the Big Data VR Challenge, and hope their expertise with games and VR will help 'em "find new ways to manipulate and interrogate" the massive amounts of info generated by science studies. As of now, projects include putting together a digital edition of one of medical history's largest collections of patient consultations (some 80,000 participants) from the 16th and 17th century and a cohort study of kids born between 1991 and 1992.
Perhaps the one best suited for VR is The Genome Browser, however, which aims to aid scientists working with genomes. The big idea here is to give data context and make it usable — after all, numbers without information to describe them are kind of pointless. The prize? A cool $20,000 and the winner will be announced at Develop:Brighton this July.