Archive for the ‘siggraph’ Category
In the past, I have discussed visualization tools and a few companies that make them. They are used by a wide variety of professionals such as the Business Intelligence community, Scientific Data explorers, Financial data analysts and many more users.
I feel though that more often than not such tools are an afterthought in a company’s think tank and require a significant amount of training, learning and overcoming a mental block by the senior management of a company. Companies such as Tableau Software, Spotfire, and many others must have excellent sales teams which, on identifying companies that may be able to benefit from their really stellar software, have to then pitch it to them. Even if the software blows the company management away, the reluctance on their part in adopting it surely must be a problem. Additionally, I am sure that even if the top management think its a great idea, the real users (lower level management/marketing/sales professionals) might not have the time and willingness to invest into using the software.
I know that the people behind these visualization companies are brilliant researchers who are not only innovating in the field of visualization but also taking the extra effort to improve on proven visualization techniques in order to make them easy to use.
I feel very strongly about this matter and wonder if a few things can be done to avoid this situation in the future. Clearly, just as training radiologists and other medical software users to use 3D volume rendering software is an uphill task, training business analysts to use visualization tools must be a difficult task.
1 – Provide an educational version of the software that can be available and used only through academic institutions. They could be fully featured or have only some evaluation features but let your software be one of the first tools that students use when analyzing their data. That will ensure that at least a few of them will be trained in using the tool when they go on to join a company and root for your visualization software at the company. If you think about it, companies like Microsoft allow free downloads of their express edition of Visual Studio for students which ensures a familiarity with the software that developers then take to companies when they join there. In my experience, students are far more ready to learn new software and technologies as compared to senior management in a company. They also have more time on their hands and can devote more time to learn the spiffy new features in your visualization software.
2 – Developing a course or two for data analysis in conjunction with a professor at a university – Merely providing educational versions of the software is of limited value. An interesting data analysis course that teaches use of your software or two/three other similar software tools along with basics of data analysis and an overview of visualization techniques might be another interesting way to approach the problem.
3 – Provide easy to use learning material – Take the time and make sure to have tutorials and multitudes of examples on your website that will allow users to use them and improve over time. Having a free PDF book or a step-by-step tutorial can vastly benefit the user and take some load off of your hands for training purposes. Tableau software does an amazing job in the training realm as can be seen by the examples at http://www.tableausoftware.com/learning/examples. You can even download a ‘workbook’ for each example and play around with it in your copy of the software.
4 – Provide free training in the form of Webcasts – Recently, nvidia had a few webcasts focused on CUDA and its applicability for general purpose computing on the GPU. The webcast consisted of a few nvidia developers giving a presentation and answering some questions at the end. The webcast was free and was a great way to indoctrinate a few more researchers to use CUDA for which they would have to buy nvidia graphics cards. I thought it was a great idea which could be taken even further when applied to visualization software. If your users already have a running software, then publishing sample datasets and walking them through it can be even more compelling and interactive than reading an online tutorial or a book chapter.
5 – Providing training at a conference or a workshop might be another way to get users to download your evaluation version and play with some data. Google has been doing similar ‘training’ at conferences like SIGGRAPH and IEEE Visualization for the last couple of years now. This helps you get new users as well as allow for professionals attending the conference to learn something they might convey to their company when they go back to work, which could translate into acceptance and added sales for the company.
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to let me know. Sorry there are no pretty visualizations in this post :)
What Art Can Tell Us About the Brain
Margaret S. Livingstone, Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
I knew the keynote talk at the IEEE Visualization conference was going to be interesting when the student volunteer at the door handed me stereo glasses before the talk. The talk was focused on introducing concepts about color and luminance that artists have been using effectively for hundreds of years.
In the first part of the talk, she focused on introducing concepts such as centre-surround.
Some of the highlights from her talk are as follows:
- In some cases, color contrast is not equal to luminance contrast.
- People are good at recognizing objects from different points of view. This might be interesting since there seems to be considerable amount of work in graphics and visualization on finding the ‘best’ view for a particular dataset.
- Equiluminance – In the paper “Vernier and Displacement Thresholds in Equiluminance” by Masami Funakawa, equiluminance is introduced as follows
The notion of equiluminance is based upon the assumption that in the human visual system there are two kinds of visual pathway, i.e., luminance and chromatic pathway. An equiluminous stimulus varies in color, but not in luminance, so that it is assumed to be signaled by the chromatic system, but not by the luminance system. In psychophysical studies these stimuli are used to isolate and probe the chromatic system.
This webpage describes the use of equiluminance in art and how luminance affects our perception http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/anuszkiewicz.html
- Depth can be conveyed using motion, shading, perspective projection, occlusion and stereopsis.
- Luminance contrast: As long as the luminance is appropriate, shape can be conveyed. She showed some interesting examples of paintings [Matisse's The Woman in a Hat] and visual representations, where the colors were unnatural but it did not affect the perceived shape of face/object.
- Yellow, Blue and White, when used appropriately can convey motion in static images. This was demonstrated by showing some work by Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s Rotating Snakes (left image below) and Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie. It reminded me of the SIGGRAPH 2008 paper on
Self-Animating Images: Illusory Motion Using Repeated Asymmetric Patterns by Ming-Te Chi et al.
The images in this paper seem to use a similar principle and are very effective and conveying motion.
- Our central vision has high acuity whereas our peripheral vision was lower acuity. We dont seem to notice the fact that our peripheral vision has lower resolution since we move our eyes rapidly over scenes. This reminded me of the keynote from IEEE Vis 2004, where the speaker, Wilson Geisler, gave an amazing demonstration of this phenomena.
She said that Mona Lisa’s smile was particularly enigmatic since one feels her expression changing depending on whether one focuses on the eyes or the mouth. Her lab has conducted research on the same and by filtering if they have been able to create representations of how our peripheral and central vision interpret the painting, as shown here
The last part of the talk focused on the use of stereopsis by artists in making more realistic paintings. She found that many artists lack the ability to see stereopsis and that makes them see a flat world which they capture on canvas. This can be identified by looking at the glint in the eye of the photo/painting and if both the glints are not synchronized, chances are that the person lacks the ability to see stereopsis. Through her research, she found many famous artists to have misaligned eyes including the painter Rembrandt. Photographs of Babe Ruth too seemed to imply that he had misaligned eyes.
The end of the talk kept us wanting for more and I guess that implies that it was a great keynote talk.