We recently stumbled across an article by Slawek Wolski entitled "Visualize your Data." In that article he brings out a number of worthwhile, if not slightly sobering, points.
Mainly that of the over 2.8 zettabytes of data (estimated) that the human race has generated so far, only 0.5% of it is being analyzed.
This fact is sobering because it has dire implications: that we are generating more data than we can use and we are missing out on innumerable opportunities for improvement simply because we cannot analyze all of this data fast enough.
Luckily, Wolski has a solution that we couldn't agree with more: use the power of sight to visualize data in real time.
Powered by Sight
In his article, Wolski points out "Once data is presented in a visual format, it’s human instinct to create a relationship from that data. This can not be accomplished with spreadsheet of numbers." He goes on to say that whenever anyone tries they focus too completely on one thing and thus don't see the entire picture, a data visualization problem we've discussed elsewhere.
His solution? Getting people information in a visual format rather than numerical. And this is where he really hits on an important point.
He cites recent research conducted by Mary Potter et al of MIT which clocks the speed of visual processing in the human brain at 13 milliseconds. According to this article from nature world news author James Foley, "the researchers suggest that even when presented for as little as 13 milliseconds, the human brain is capable of processing and storing that information for later recall."
This research is certainly built on the foundation of other work by Simon Thorpe and co. who were working in the field as far back as 1996 and clocked the speed of human visual processing at ~150 milliseconds. This new research makes it even faster, and even used the same type of experimental design- subjects were asked to determine whether or not an image flashed on the screen contained an image. Thorpe and colleagues determined that humans can in fact process images flashed for a short time with amazing accuracy, implying a "feed-forward" mechanism for visual processing that puts prevalence on what we see over our other senses and reimagines the way we understand the power of vision.
What does all of this mean for the world of data visualization? As Wolski stated, "If we can get information to people in a visual format rather then numerical then our brains can process more information quicker and easier." He calls for real-time data visualizations that harness this kind of power. We say that presenting information visually is the only way you can do a true real-time visualization.
Think of it this way- our brains can't process numbers as fast as they can process images: it's a fact that has now been proven time and time again by the best scientific minds in the world. If your "real-time" data visualization shows numbers, you aren't actually understanding the information in real time. You might get it quickly, but your brain cannot process it fast enough to make decisions in the moment.
Now, enter VisualCue and a data visualization method utilizing pictures and colors to convey enormous amounts of data. This platform was built on the work of researchers like Thorpe and Potter, translating data into icons your mind can process in as little as 13 milliseconds- it's a data visualization tool that lets you analyze data sets in real time.
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And that's why we say VisualCue is powered by sight.
Until next time,