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The art of numbers: Who knew Big Data could look so cool?

Narasu Rebbapragada | Sept. 19, 2013
Bold graphics tell a human story that spreadsheets cannot.

Turning the CAVE2 environment into a 3D visualization of the brain required an interdisciplinary team. Olusola Ajilore, a UIC psychiatrist conducting research on how depression affects the brain, developed the map of the bundles of neural fibers. Electronic Visualization Lab faculty members and students took his data and modeled it in virtual reality.

The future of visualizations
As Big Data gets bigger, demand for data visualizations will grow, and the visualizations themselves will become better and better. Jer Thorpe, former data artist in residence at the New York Times and current cofounder of the Office for Creative Research, notes three reasons why.

First, display screens for visualizing data—think video walls and projected surfaces—are getting better and bigger. Second, gestural interfaces (screens that respond to body movement) will offer more flexible and intuitive ways to work with big data sets. Third, software tools, particularly open-source tools, are getting better and more accessible.

Visualization experts say that as visualization tools improve and become more common, people will pressure organizations and institutions to make their data sets more publicly available. Fast-forward to a future presidential election during which you can use cutting-edge visualization tools to evaluate all the facts and figures the pundits throw out—in the context of the whole data set from which the pundits selectively chose them.

What if visualizations of big data made us smarter about what people were saying about the world around us? Visualize that.


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