The future of collaboration: Large-scale visualization

October 22, 2014

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More data doesn’t automatically lead to better decisions. A shortage of skilled data scientists has hindered progress towards translation of information into actionable business insights. In addition, traditionally dense spreadsheets and linear slideshows are ineffective to present discoveries when dealing with Big Data’s dynamic nature. We need to evolve how we capture, analyze and communicate data.

Your typical everyday meeting involves one screen, a presentation deck and assumes everyone can follow at the same pace. But how many times have you heard someone ask to return to the previous slide? Sound familiar? This highlights the challenges of a traditional presentation. How can you show the big picture idea, while illustrating all of the individual parts? Visualization platforms provide the real estate to zoom into detail without losing context, and allowing users to digest information at their own pace.

Large-scale visualization platforms have several advantages over traditional presentation methods. They blur the line between the presenter and audience to increase the level of interactivity and collaboration. They also offer simultaneous views of both macro and micro perspectives, multi-user collaboration and real-time data interaction, and a limitless number of visualization possibilities – critical capabilities for rapidly understanding today’s large data sets.

The Future of Collaboration: Large-Scale Visualization

For example, our Emerging Technology Lab and Analytics group analyzed recent catastrophes by dividing a 16’ x 6’ HD display wall into three sections: a map, a timeline of hurricanes, and satellite imagery from before and after a selected hurricane.  Using this platform, users could compare the before and after photos of individual homes, then quickly refer back to the larger map for timeframe and geographic location. In another example, we also created an app which allowed audience members to use gyration mouse pointers to collectively control a guided presentation, bringing everyone to a joint conclusion through collaboration.

Large-scale visualization platforms, like this one, move us away from a single speaker presenting one point of view. They naturally encourage sharing of multiple perspectives through real-time collaboration. Rooms can be reconfigured to enable audience participants to directly interact with the data through touchscreens, multi-user pointers, and gesture controls.

However, larger screens do not mean more rows and columns.  Instead, they challenge us to visualize data in different ways: geospatially, temporally, and by topic. We combined all three visualization styles into one application, affording presenters the flexibility to reach their audiences in different ways.

Visualization walls enable presenters to target people’s preferred learning methods, thus creating a more effective communication tool. The human brain has an amazing ability to quickly glean insights from patterns – and great visualizations make for more efficient storytellers.

From casual working sessions to formal presentations, the dynamic between people and data is changing. By engaging the audience, collaborative large-scale visualization platforms can accelerate the feedback loop from hypothesis to analysis to insight. Ultimately, this can lead to competitive advantages in many industries as companies struggle to make strategic business decisions at pace with changes in technology.

 

Trevor Tan contributed to this post.

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