Information visualisation

Master Thesis

1996

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University of Cape Town

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Information visualisation uses interactive three-dimensional (3D) graphics to create an immersive environment for the exploration of large amounts of data. Unlike scientific visualisation, where the underlying physical process usually takes place in 3D space, information visualisation deals with purely abstract data. Because abstract data often lacks an intuitive visual representation, selecting an appropriate representation of the data becomes a challenge. As a result, the creation of information visualisation involves as much exploration and investigation as the eventual exploration of that data itself. Unless the user of the data is also the creator of the visualisations, the turnaround time can therefore become prohibitive. In our experience, existing visualisation applications often lack the flexibility required to easily create information visualisations. These solutions do not provide sufficiently flexible and powerful means of both visually representing the data, and specifying user-interface interactions with the underlying database. This thesis describes a library of classes that allows the user to easily implement visualisation primitives, with their accompanying interactions. These classes are not individual visualisations but can be combined to form more complex visualisations. Classes for creating various primitive visual representations have been created. In addition to this, a number of auxillary classes have been created that provide the user with the ability to swap between visualisations, scale whole scenes, and use automatic level of detail control. The classes all have built-in interaction methods which allow the user to easily incorporate the forms of interaction that we found the most useful, for example the ability to select a data. item and thereby obtain more information about it, or the ability to allow the user to change the position of certain data items. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the classes we implemented and evaluated a. number of example systems. We found that the result of using the classes was a decrease in development time as well as enabling people with little, or no visualisation experience to create information visualisations.
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Bibliography: leaves 100-102.

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