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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Virtual World Data Environments

Something I had explored since well before virtual worlds were common. The idea was that you could explore data by flying through a 3D space. There were several problems. One is that a 3D does not provide lots of additional resolution for exploration and there was little opportunity for precise manipulation.

The results showed little benefit beyond carefully designed 2D data representation. In fact while some BI packages today include 3D visual metaphors but they seem to be rarely used since motion is required to understand the data relationships and it is hard to understand dimensional interactions. Experts in data design push simplicity rather than increasing dimensions. To be clear, I am not saying this is not a good idea, but that current interfaces are insufficient to make it work.

A new example explorable in beta:
Glasshouse by Green Phosphor is a gateway which can take a database query or a spreadsheet and place a 3D representation of it into a virtual world. Users can see data, and drill into it; re-sort it; explore it interactively - all from within a virtual world. Glasshouse produces graphs which are avatars of the data itself ... "
Update: A video tour of the technology.

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