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Information visualization is the process of showing the data in a graphical display which we cannot explain using words and text in other words; Information visualization is a set of technologies that use visual computing to amplify human cognition with abstract information. The greatest advantage of information visualization is its ability to show the amounts of information that are beyond the capacity of textual display. Information Visualization can significantly improve productivity. Users can explore large amounts of data, rapidly assimilate information from many sources, reason with it, understand it and create new knowledge based on it. With the right visual picture, people can make better decisions, faster, backed with more information.
One of the most obvious benefits of visualization is helping people see trends and anomalies in data, which can be particularly valuable in real-time environments. Visual techniques such as heat maps and tree maps, which help reveal patterns in homogenous data, were virtually unknown so many years ago, but are used today in many places ranging from public Web sites to advanced trading applications.
Real-time environments require rapid comprehension of a dynamically changing situation – whether in the stock market, an emergency response center or an operations control center. Visualization can also help reveal patterns in complex, heterogeneous, rapidly updating data.
Usage of Information Visualization
Visualization is extremely powerful for analysis. Visualization makes use of what is called external cognition (External Cognition is the process of using the external objects to gain information) External resources are used for thinking. People are relieved from having to imagine everything. Instead they can just look at an image. This is only possible because human vision has a very large bandwidth, the largest of all senses.
Information visualization is applied in numerous areas covering every industry and all tasks where understanding of the core structure in data is crucial.
Some prominent examples are:
Representation of large hierarchies
For Example: as shown in the figure below the data which is very difficult to understand is displayed graphically using colors and shapes which makes a user understand easily
Table Versus Information Visualization. The table shows only 50 rows x 9 columns out of 80,000 rows of data. The visualization scatter plot shows 80,000 points with 5 attributes (x position, y position, height, size, color) – more than one hundred times what is visible in the table.
Some of the other advantages are:
Increasing the memory and processing resources available to the user
Reducing the search for information
Using visual representations to enhance the detection of patterns
Enabling perceptual inference operations
Using perceptual attention mechanisms for monitoring
Encoding information in a manipulable medium
Disadvantages of Information Visualization
The potentially misleading perception of reliability of a visualization(visualizations may appear more convincing and sound than they really are).
User will get carried away by the graphics used for representing the data. Making the user stay focused on what they exactly want to do is difficult if the graphical representation is an eye catching design.
The (multiple) implicit meanings inherent in visualizations (leading to ambiguous interpretations).
For the user to make sense out of the graphical representation or to be understood, the data used should be familiar to the audience and interesting. If the user doesn’t know what is exactly represented in the graphics users might misunderstand the data.
The high prerequisites for diagram interpretation (a visualization’s efficacy depends on the user’s previous experience and visual literacy).
To be understood, the data used should be familiar to the audience and interesting and also user must have some experience using the Information visualization. A normal person who is just being exposed to the information visualization will not understand the data if it is a complex image.
This potential disadvantage belongs to the category of cognitive problems caused by the designer of a graphic representation. It occurs when visualization distracts a person from the main goal he or she tries to achieve or when several items in a graphic are emphasized at the same time, thus confusing the viewer about where to start or to focus.
Sources of distraction can be: Unnecessary ornaments, visual background noise, flashy animated graphics, or including unrelated elements in a diagram.
(Bresciani & Eppler)
Discuss the current research developments in the topic area.
Information visualization, an increasingly important sub discipline within HCI, focuses on graphical mechanisms designed to show the structure of information and improve the cost of access to large data repositories.
Information visualization, sometimes called InfoVis, is a special kind of visualization. Visualization is a part of computer graphics, which is in turn a subset of computer science.
Information visualization offers a way to transform raw data into a graspable graphical format, allowing the user to make decisions based on that data. A variety of researches are being carried out by different people, organizations to improve the performance of the Information visualization so that, people will be able to understand easily.
One of the main organizations to carry our researches on Information visualization is AT&T.
This is a brief synopsis of current and recent projects by AT&T Labs.
Can geometric algorithms draw networks at least as beautifully as humans are able? How can we make this ability available to thousands of applications?
Is it practical to visually explore huge networks? Can we browse them directly? Can we run queries on large networks to extract concise sub graphs that explain interesting relationships?
How can we visualize a billion transactions? How should we engineer systems that provide near-instantaneous access to overviews, mid-level views, and individual records?
How can we extract accurate 3D models from live 2D video streams? What services can we create from that?
Can we use 3D graphics processors and clusters to improve the performance of algorithms for large-scale data analysis and optimization?
Could we make it much easier to analyze large-scale data sets by combining the best of databases, statistical tools, and visualization in one system?
As the technology related to computers improves day by day, better graphics applications and analysis software – we can expect to see the field of information visualization move on in leaps and bounds. New methods of visualizing data will eventually push traditional forms of data presentation (such as spreadsheets and basic graphics) into obsolescence.
One of the main individuals who work on the research of Information visualization is Jock D. Mack inlay. He is the Jock D. Mack inlay is an American information visualization expert and Director of Visual Analysis at Tableau Software. With Stuart K. Card, George G. Robertson and others he invented a number of Information Visualization techniques.
His current research is exploiting advances in flat panel displays and graphics cards that enable personal computers with 6-8 monitors and may also eliminate seams. Progress in information visualization and in our understanding of human-information interactions provides an opportunity to design cognitive workspaces for wideband displays. These could radically improve productivity in many knowledge management tasks – analogous to the improved productivity of a craftsman who has the right tools and a big enough workbench. Seamless wideband displays will be available in the next decade with costs driven down by computer gaming, entertainment, and teleconferencing. (Mackinlay)
Future of Information Visualization
The earlier Versions of information visualization has given an option to users to become familiar with basic forms of graphical representations of data. In the future we can expect to see even more advanced representations, which may even allow the user to enter into the data and explore. Today there are many organizations and universities working to develop new methods of information visualization to explore the challenges that are facing today, such as AT&T’s IV Research Group, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NIST, as well as a wide range of international conferences focusing on industry-specific applications.
If we are able to develop cheap and cost effective Virtual reality devices future of information visualization may lie in some sort of ‘full immersion’ technology, in which the user may enter the representation itself to allow them to better understand and manipulate visual data in other words an user will be able to enter in the graphical representation and will be able to manipulate data. Whether this type of true 3D representation would actually improve the user’s ability to figure out the data is as yet unclear, though it does seem likely that in the near future the field of information visualization will move beyond the constraints of the 2 dimensional computer monitor.
As computer technology is improving we are likely to see better graphics applications and analysis software. New methods of visualizing data will ultimately drive traditional forms of data presentation. The information visualization graphical presentations have already been introduced and with time we can expect to see better and more advanced presentations.
Information visualization is not only used to communicate information to the public but also by scientists as their main tool for understanding environmental changes on the global scale. When dealing with many different data points, sometimes the only way to understand the “big picture” is to make a picture. The visualizations that are created in the process overlay colors and patterns onto the familiar image of the globe, creating an image that is both strange and familiar. Many environmental systems move too slowly or involve too many interrelated variables to be comprehensible without the aid of visualization tools. “Scientific visualization of simulation data allows one to zoom around at will, run forwards or backwards in time at any rate, and transform and filter the data arbitrarily
Information Visualization systems, appear to be most useful when a person simply does not know what questions to ask about the data or when the person wants to ask better, more meaningful questions. Information Visualization is much easier to explain using demonstrations than words. However, to be understood, the data used should be familiar to the audience and interesting. Ultimately, however, we believe that it is up to the community of Information Visualization researchers and practitioners to create techniques and systems that clearly illustrate the value of the field.
In general, we can also come to positive conclusions for almost all parameters, and hence predict a bright future for Information Visualization. The number of potential users is very large. It is a very useful tool in the IT as to manage systems in data centers. When all the servers are graphically represented, it will be very easy to understand which one is faulty and it is easy to trace where and what had happened. Ex: At&t Visualize-Which is a service offered to enterprise customers that provides visual monitoring and interactive querying of their managed services.
Data in the form of tables, hierarchies, and networks is ubiquitous, as well as the need to get insight in these. This holds for professional applications, like LiveRAC – Interactive Visual Exploration of System Management Time-Series Data(AT&TRAC) but also for private use at home. Many People have a need to get an overview of their email, financial transfers, media collections, and to search in external data bases, for instance to find a house, vacation destination, or another product that meets their needs.
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