Visual Analytics is “the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces”(Thomas and Cook, 2005). Areas as diverse as finance and business intelligence, education, transportation safety, freedom from crime and the threat of terrorism, public health, and environmental protection among others require the creation of information systems that support human cognitive processes such as learning and discovery, insight, creativity, reasoning and problem solving, coordination, and communication and that enable those innately human abilities to function at their best in information spaces that may include large volumes of data that are confusing, complex and uncertain.
These applications require technologies that support the blending of human cognitive abilities with computational processes. This in turn demands design methodologies that incorporate and advance a new translational cognitive science of human-information interaction. This new science must address research questions that emerge from field studies of “cognition in the wild’– at different stages of cognitive development, by aging and handicapped individuals, as well as by expert decision makers across a broad range of domains and situations. It must be precise enough to effectively guide technology builders, interaction designers, managers and trainers of a new generation of computationally-sophisticated decision makers.
Visual analysts use a wide variety of computer techniques and models to provide timely, defensible, and understandable assessments of complex situations and then communicate those assessments to policy and decision makers. Visual analytics provides computer-based tools that enable decision-makers to synthesize information and derive insight from changing and often conflicting data.
Defining and Building the Science
MAGIC has been involved in visual analytics from its origin in 2004. Associate Director Fisher contributed to “Illuminating the Path, a National Research Agenda in Visual Analytics” that defined the field and laid the groundwork for research programs in Europe and Canada as well as the US.
In collaboration with SFU SCIENCE Lab, MAGIC seeks to develop a translational science of visual analytics that bridges field studies and laboratory studies of human reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. More on this project
MAGIC has played a key role in securing a 1.3M grant from the Boeing Company for visual analytics research at UBC and SFU that focuses on improving the safety, reliability, and maintainability of aircraft. Much of that research takes place in MAGIC space by UBC Cognitive Systems students and collaborators from SFU SCIENCE Lab. More on this project.
Healthcare decision making
MAGIC houses and supports projects that extend visual analytics capabilities to serve a diverse community of users. In partnership with Purdue university’s HIVE lab and Simon Fraser UniversitySCIENCE Lab MAGIC visiting researcher Linda Kaastra is working to better understand visual interaction methods and how they may enable us to utilize visual analytics technology to support decision making about health care by seniors.
Public safety / Disaster relief
Fisher maintains an active role in the US research as a member of the leadership board in DHS Visual Analytics Center for Excellence with a focus on cross-border disaster relief. This work is supported by DHS funds, and an NSERC Strategic Partnership grant proposal is under review to design and evaluate a technologically advanced Virtual Emergency Operations Centre in Canada.