Interfaces To Handle Data Complexity

2nd installment (15 dec 2010) - The graphical interface's range of functionalities have been expanded and the list of new features is given right below:

• major code refactorization (UML sketch)

• added an option to switch to a denser sphere in terms of number of nodes scattered across the surface. Doing so will slow down the overall dynamics a bit though.

• added a basic simulation engine that considers the nodes interaction. The user can now pick out a single node (polygon) and move it around by using the mouse. The option "wedge off" (second checkbox from top left) enables mutual spring force contributions between the nodes that share a connection. However, despite being originally meant to add a self-arranging flavour to the linked data displayed by the 3Dinterface, such functionality still needs some tweaking. The reason is that it only piles up all the nodes with no clear meaningful patterns emerging, for the time being. Also, to notice that if 'wedge off' is opted in when the "denser sphere" option is already on, the dynamics won't converge either. That's due to the fact that a 1st order (Euler) ODE solver has been employed as trade-off. A RK4 solver would, instead, converge but with the downside of being more computationally intensive. The use of the GPU will sort out this issue, in a future installment.

• added stereoscopic-view option to look at the linked data in extreme 3D mode. Once enabled, two versions of the interface are given. It is recommended to stare at the two globes up-close and gradually pull out until a third central interface appears. That should do the trick and shift the visual perception of two images into a single merged version of them. Parallel stereoscopic 3D view can also be practised here. Enabling this functionality will slow down the overall dynamics.

• included an energy-saver functionality - the 3Dinterface, however optimised, stays computationally intensive so it goes automatically into stand-by mode ten seconds after the last user interaction has been carried out.

• added connections highlight feature. By keeping pressed CTRL (Apple key) while dragging a node, the connections color turn to orange and the connections get capsized to easily get which node is connected with which. It is still possible to perform the global transition (from triangles to circles) by keeping pressed the Alt key before selecting a node through the mouse.

What's next ? The source code could be released soon under Google Code and the whole interface as Flex component. The next installment would see a new interface employed in a real application.

N.B. Manually dragging single nodes across the sphere goes a bit funny in this version, direction inversion and/or gimbal lock can be experienced, esp. if the whole ball has been previously rotated through the yellow circle. The direction inversion is due to the fact that the mouse movement is translated into angular velocities in the main rotating frame. The gimbal lock instead, the well-known effect due to the nesting of the basic rotations inside each other, translates into a loss of a degree of rotational freedom under certain conditions. Anyway, although sometimes a little inconvenient, the 3D interface navigation works fine and in a future release it will be offered the possibility to choose among different navigational systems.

NB: It is recommended to step up to the stereoscopic view after grasping how to navigate the sphere in the normal faster view.

NB : This 3Dinterface is clearly still a prototype. Should you bump into a bug, please let me know through a short email. Any comment is welcome at the bottom of this page. Thank you kindly.

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1st installment (26 feb 2010) - The graphical Interface shown below extends the ring-shape graph visualization to the 3D domain and it goes through three different configurations, the last of which could be associated to displaying a number of users linked to a certain resource.

The purpose of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) is to facilitate the conveyance of information processed by the computer and to allow the further data processing phase that takes place in the human brain. Human beings' necessities are definitely specific and the user interface has to comply with such requirements. One of those necessities is based on the consideration that people make meaning out of the surrounding reality all the time so the way an interface reflects a set of visualized data can bring about specific reactions in the user's perception and actually shifting it. That's also why it's so important to consider the subtle balance between showing the complexity in its full magnitude and keeping it from overwhelming the user's senses.

My intent here is to introduce comfortable and attractive light-weight 3D interfaces for browsing / building complex linked data-sets.

* I would like to thank Katherine, Jacqui and Philip for our inspiring conversations.

Please push on the blue button below to start the presentation

Link right to the resizable Interface ( Interface )

* The above demo will stop automatically after a short while since the animation can be moderately demanding for the CPU.




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