3D Data Visualization: Problems & Tools

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll take a look at data visualization, what it is, how 3D data visualization is different, the problems associated with it, and some tools used to create it.

Taming Information

We deal with so much information in our daily lives. We review financial information to reconcile our bank accounts, we peruse local news to find out what's happening around us, and we sift through weather information to determine what to wear for the day. Truth be told, we couldn't live without it. But, do we consume so much information that we can't see the forest for the trees? And if we can see the big picture, are the eddies and currents lost to us? These are difficult questions to answer. One of the ways we can make sense of everything is to use data visualization.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is the area of computer science that is focused on displaying information. In particular, it presents information in a way that is easy to consume and understand. You may not realize it, but we encounter instances of it almost every day - charts, graphs, digital images, and movies. They have the ability to convey more about a subject than the original information could on its own. For example, just ask yourself, is the GPS in a cell phone better at guiding you than a set of hand-written directions? Or, is a graph better at explaining a trend than the set of raw numbers used to generate it? For most of us, the answer is an emphatic YES!

How is 3D Data Visualization Different?

3D data visualization is a subset of data visualization. In many respects, they are the same. However, there are a couple of things worth noting that set 3D Data Visualization apart:

  • Number of Dimensions - This is the most obvious one. Regular data visualization can use any number of dimensions, although it is usually some variation of two - length and width. 3D always uses three - length, width, and depth.
  • Visual Style - Because 3D uses an extra dimension, renderings tend to have a feeling of depth, even when it is rendered on a two-dimensional page.
  • Volume of Information - 3D also tends to have more information associated with it than regular data visualization (2D).

Problems Associated With 3D Data Visualization

The problems of 3D data visualization are really the problems of data visualization in general. They include the following:

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