3D Information Visualization: An Introduction and Practical Applications

This morning Brad Eden of the University of Nevada gave us a very nice overview of
3-D Information Visualization. The concept of Information Visualization can be defined loosely in a number of ways, but basically boils down to the representation of nonspatial data as visual objects with easily perceived relationships and patterns.

Information Visualization is becoming increasingly important in online communication and instruction. When we look at the ways our users are consuming information, increasingly by choice, they do so visually. Virtual collaborative spaces are springing up all over the Internet as is the use of multiplayer online games coupled with the use of avatars and other visual persona, landscapes and environments. Why?

“Tell me and I’ll forget…
Show me and I may remember…
Involve me and I’ll understand.”
Ancient Chinese Proverb

Increasingly faculty is looking at ways of utilizing Information Visualization to represent traditional text based and flat structure information. We looked at several examples including a 3-D map from the Rumsey map collection, which was running on GIS software through Luna Insight. There is a plethora of possibilities when it comes to 3-D presentation techniques.

Current programming languages involving 3-D are primarily Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML)/eXtensible 3D (X3D) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

We reviewed some library OPACs that are currently incorporating some type of Information Visualization such as AquaBrowser. You can see an example at the Lexington Public Library

One of the most interesting applications of 3-D Visualization technology can be experienced by taking a look at Cubic Eye. CubicEye breaks out your browser window into a cube with each “wall” functioning as an independent browser window. Individual 3-D elements, if supplied on the Web page, can be rotated on the floor of the cube for further examination.

We also examined several 3-D projects in the humanities, which utilized 3-D technologies to recreate architectural and anthropological sites on the web.

We can utilize these tools in our libraries not only by making our users aware of what is available in terms of completed projects in their subject areas, but also by exploring and incorporating Information Visualization into our service delivery and instruction. The serious consideration and utilization of visual technologies will add an increased level of appeal and interest in a language our users are already fluent in and accustomed to using.