Blog Post

Get Started and Build Your Own SQL World


“Sir, thank you for taking this meeting. We have this new thing to show you. It will allow you to see unexplored data patterns, data mining relationships amongst unrelated information, and advanced visualizations. Just put on this Virtual Reality (VR) headset and we can get started.”

“You mean I have to put that thing on my face in order to see a new fantastic world of information? No. Just make it work in Excel like that Power Map or Power BI stuff. Now go!”


If you have to spend a lot of time educating the customer on your solution then maybe they are not ready for it yet. Or are they? Have you seen StockCity for Oculus Rift by Fidelity Labs?

The challenge before the #sqlfamily is to choose to become educated on what VR can and cannot do and begin to just play around with it. I am interested in its ability as a new and incredible story-telling mechanism. VR allows you to step into the story and walk around. To see and hear things that simply cannot be done in a movie or on a flat monitor.

The man behind the #SQLNewBlogger Challenge, @eleightondick at the speaker dinner for Phoenix SQL Saturday #370:


After my presentation at Denver WIT on March 11th I demoed some fun stuff too (@SQL_Xena):


One of my core interests, personal angle, my shtick, is to answer the question: What can VR do for me? As an individual why and how can I use it?

Therein lies the rub. In order to create content and things that move around takes time and effort. It will push you WAY outside of your comfort zone. Learning the tools to do VR can be downright intimidating. What do I know about making video games? I’m a SQL data professional! And yet that is exactly what I have been teaching myself in my spare time for the last several months. For me it has not been easy.

VR is coming to a venue near you. Companies are already showing off things using the developer kits. At the Game Developers Conference a plethora of VR hardware was demoed And major announcements from the game engine companies; they are giving it all away! UE4 is free Now that the hardware manufacturers have a head of steam going for them and more competitors are entering the field, things are starting to pick up. Speculation is a dangerous pastime and many people have been burned by trying to predict things only to watch cool prototypes become vaporware.

Before the end of the year I think we will be able to buy the first generation of consumer grade VR headsets. The mobile headsets like Gear VR will be out first. There are those who believe that first mover advantage is the most important thing to do and just get something on the market now. I think that would be a mistake. Biggest reason? People need time to upgrade their systems and to buy new systems. I am specifically referring to PCs here. The mobile headsets need to be awesome too. If the VR experience is less than stellar right out of the gate it will poison the well and turn people off.

I personally don’t want to see that happen so, “Attention vendors! Please take your time to get it right the first time but don’t wait too long about it!”

My first forays into using Unreal Engine and VR was what one could call VR brochureware. It was really basic and was something I could easily visualize and then build. For example, one thing that quickly occurred to me in this new medium was how to think about a flowchart in 3D. If you had to create a work of physical architecture based on a flowchart what can that do that a 2D flat chart cannot? The demos were bloated because I wanted to do a lot and I was hesitant to try and upload these huge packages for people to download. I am still learning about graphic optimizations just like trying to get maximum performance in SQL. The graphics requirements are quite high with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). For example using the old Unreal Development Kit (UDK) I could run demoes on my old laptop running an i3 processor. But it simply won’t run using UE4. I hear the Unity Engine is a bit more forgiving than Unreal and has similar capabilities but I am going with UE4.

Perhaps you have heard of people wanting to get into SQL just because of the community? Same deal for me with Unreal.

I have recently been selected to present in New York for SQL Saturday #380 The Life Cycle of a Query in VR. Yay! As part of that preparation (~8wks) I will be completely re-doing my presentation and will pull out all of the stops on the build. The core content will be the same but the visuals and walkthroughs are going to be unlike anything anyone has seen as far as using a video game engine to give a SQL presentation is concerned.

What will be involved? A ton. The need continues to watch more courses on digital-tutors and YouTube videos about Unreal Engine 4. Learning much more about Blender, GIMP, and Audacity. Streamlining workflows. Tips and tricks to working with content. Importing 3D scanned objects using tools like Autodesk’s 123D Catch. Figuring out how to import and manipulate data in Unreal Engine via DataTables. This too will be an uphill fight the whole way but it will build my core skills on Unreal and VR. Stay tuned as I want to use this blog to document my progress as I re-build my presentation.

But what will it look like? Right now I am leaning towards a sci-fi style theme. I will be using content purchased from the Unreal marketplace in addition to my own creations.

Data is delivered using a visual medium. Time to break out of using 2D flat monitors and into a 3D SQL World. VR is around the corner and I want to help people see some of the unique things VR can do for the #sqlfamily

Start dreaming and start building!

P.S. A sincere “thank you” goes out to @eleightondick for the #SQLNewBlogger challenge. Thanks Ed!


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