Seeing is believing
Visualisation is rarely far from the headlines: whether it is uncovering beauty in what may initially appear to be mundane (such as the routes of bicycles across London or in humourously laying bare the issues in major companies.
Work has been continuing in Computer Science at the University of Birmingham on a variety of visualisations, ranging from dynamically understanding how olive oils have their different characteristics to providing perspectives on documents at a glance.
However, one thing that visualisation approaches have in common is that they provide global, summary perspectives on complex datasets, providing high-level overviews.
This is often useful in uncovering large-scale commonalities and similarities in the datasets, and it is these that give them their power - they provide a way of distingushing the wood from the trees.
However, there are massive challenges remaining in the visualisation research space in trying to uncover the smaller details.
As we get better at interacting with 3d visualisations, we are finding that this iterative, synergistic approach to collaboration between the computer undertaking the massive number of calculations needed to draw the representations, and the user in identifying what they are interested in and being able to home in to very specific things and still get a visual representation, is leading to some novel discoveries and new ways of understanding data.
We are now working on the next wave of visualisations and interactions, as we explore how interactive tabletops and wall surfaces can be used for collaborative interaction and exploration of data.
Many of us are used to the familiar gestural inputs used to such good effect on the iPhone and other such smartphone devices, but questions remain as to what is natural, what is easy, and what is intuitive.
Deeper issues as to how to support clusters of people interacting, collaborating and competing as they share space and information both digitally and socially are providing a rich ground for research into both interaction and into how we learn, navigate and represent these complex digital spaces.