Sunday, March 2, 2008

Creation of the Data Visualization Interest Group in Second Life

An important applications that is much needed in SL is the ability to plot data from a spreadsheet. While SL has excellent graphics and visualization capabilities, it is presently not possible to plot even the simplest of all graphs, because there simply are no user friendly plotting tools in SL..... Not even a simple application to plot a histogram, bar graph, 2D or 3D scatter plot from data in a spreadsheet is available.

Speaking about this with several other people in SL, we decided to form a Data Visualization group, so as to begin consolidating all the existing plotting and data visualization tools into one site, and then allow for application developers to make these graphing tools user friendly. I like to refer to a user friendly plotting tool as "Excel-SL" -- in analogy to Microsoft Excel in terms of its simplicity and basic graphing capablities. Beyond that, we really need a more sophisticated graphing tool like Miner3D (from Dimension5) or Spotfire. In fact, the graphics in SL are much better than the graphics in either one of these two software packages, so this would be a great opportunity for someone to develop a highly competitive, marketable product.

Leading this data visualization effort, I have teamed up with Melanie Swan (Xantha Oe, SL). Melanie and I have had several brainstorming sessions about DataViz lately. One of the interesting things to emerge out of our conversations is that a wiki has been created by Melanie, so that now we are able to begin building an SL community interested in data visualization tools, both from a user standpoint as well as a developer standpoint. This wiki can be accessed at the following site:
Anyone who is interested in the development of data visualization tools in SL should IM me (Caia Alter) or Xantha Oe, so as to become part of the wiki. Xantha is working on acquiring some land in SciLands, so that at least we can start creating a common, centralized repository for all graphing and data visualization tools, where people can borrow any of the tools for their own use, as well as contributing tools of their own to the community.


Jingyu said...

It will be great to do data visualization on SL.But there are many data visulization tool outside already.The real challenge is if the SL can provide a stronger platform ,3D and internet based will be definitly plus.

Jingyu said...

It will be great to do data visualization on SL.But there are many data visulization tool outside already.The real challenge is if the SL can provide a stronger platform ,3D and web based will be definitly plus.

Gus Rosania said...

Like Miner3D, one can add textures (images) to data point in SL. Beyond miner3D, each side of each data point can be textured with a different image, and the textures can be animated. So, SL graphics are much, much better than Matlab, Miner3D. Plus, the graphics interface is way faster than Miner3D, and much better than most other commercial graphing applications. In addition, in SL one can link each and every data point in a scatter plot to a wiki one can annotate a plot full of information. Plus anyone can comment on a plot through the wiki.

From a communication standpoint, avatars can gather around an SL plot and dicuss it side-by-side with some simulation or some model or some experimental cannot do this with a desktop graphing application. But problem is that SL does not have any plotting/graphing applications. But if one were to develop such graphing/plotting application in a virtual world, it would certainly lead to a much more powerful appliation that anything that is currently available --at least from a scientific publication and communication standpoint.

About Me

I am Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences