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Spreadsheets are getting a 3D avatar

The researchers used HTC Vive Pro HMD headset, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet and a stylus to add data and navigate through the virtual space.
The researchers used HTC Vive Pro HMD headset, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet and a stylus to add data and navigate through the virtual space. (Pixabay)

The new concept renders various components of a spreadsheet such as graphs, charts and even individual cells into a 3D virtual space where users can not only see and work on multiple spreadsheets at a time but also visualise the data better.

Spreadsheets are one of the fundamental software that we use on personal computers and even our smartphones. They not only help in maintaining logs but also help in performing complex calculations easily. Until now spreadsheets, whether you’re using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, have largely remained unchanged. But this is about to change.

A collaboration of experts from Microsoft Research, University of Cambridge, Mixed Reality Lab and Hochschule Coburg have developed three-dimensional spreadsheets that leverage technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) to improve the overall experience of using spreadsheets, adding new features and boosting productivity among users.

The new concept renders various components of a spreadsheet such as graphs, charts and even individual cells into a 3D virtual space where users can not only see and work on multiple spreadsheets at a time but also visualise the data better.

A Tech Radar report says that the 3D spreadsheets utilise the vast virtual space enabling users to place multiple spreadsheets side-by-side or above and below beyond the confines of the traditional screen to grapple with copious amounts of data easily.

The researchers used HTC Vive Pro HMD headset, Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet and a stylus to add data and navigate through the virtual space. “Virtual Reality (VR) can enhance the display and interaction of mobile knowledge work and in particular, spreadsheet applications. While spreadsheets are widely used yet are challenging to interact with, especially on mobile devices, using them in VR has not been explored in-depth,” researchers wrote in a paper.

“Combining the precise on-screen input of a pen with spatial sensing around the tablet, we propose tools for the efficient creation and editing of spreadsheets functions such as off-the-screen layered menus, visualization of sheets dependencies, and gaze-and-touch-based switching between spreadsheet tabs,” they added.

That said, 3D spreadsheets are far from being used in everyday work life. Besides the cost-effectiveness, the research is just a proof-of-concept and far from being deployed commercially.

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