Integrated Visualization of Multiple Data Streams for Command Control Interfaces (CCI)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford e-Research Centre


Visualization is generic enabling technology, but most visualization systems have not been designed to accommodate the complexity of dynamic input data streams in many real world applications. For example, in a typical traffic control centre, there are many different data streams, such as video streams from traffic cameras, partial traffic information collected from GPS devices, accident reports via radio and emergency services, satellite images (e.g., Google earth), traditional maps, and other related information such as concerts and sports events. However, these data streams are usually displayed separately. Traffic controllers have to gather information from different displays simultaneously and build a mental image about the global situation.

Although there are geographical information systems that can display multiple maps using a classic technique called map overlay, the use of such a mechanism in applications such as traffic control centre, is rare. This is partly because that geographical information systems typically rely on a small number of visual channels, such as colour lines, patches, and text labels. It is rather easy for different maps to use similar visual mappings, creating conflicts in the combined visualization. Furthermore, temporal data (such as videos and time series) are becoming common in many applications. The depiction of such data is typically in the form of animation, tracking lines and heatmap (using colour to show the level of changes). Tracking lines and heatmaps are typically in conflict with the underlying geographic maps and satellite images respectively, while animation suffers from a number of perceptual and cognitive shortcomings and is not suitable for continuous monitoring and objective evaluation. For example, watching animation requires time and full attention. If a traffic controller is watching a previously-recorded event unfolding, he/she cannot pay attention to the current situation. So the challenge is how can one visualize "time" (i.e., temporal data) without using "time" (i.e., video or animation).

In this project, we will develop two pieces of novel techniques. We will increase the number and types of the visual channels that can be used in multi-stream visualization, while develop a set of conflict diagnostic facilities, which algorithmically measure the quality deficiency due to conflict visual mappings associated with different layers. The diagnostic facilities can give warnings to the users as the potential risks of confusion and misunderstanding caused of conflict use of visual channels. In addition, we will design a set of new forms of temporal visualization that enable uses to visualize "time" without using "time".

We will develop a demo system, where different data streams can be plugged-in and play. The system will be supported by a dashboard, running on a tablet computer such as iPad. Through the dashboard, the users can activate and deactivate individual data streams, select appropriate visual channels, receive advice from the conflict diagnostic facilities, control the appearance of each layers, and manger the order of different layers. We will evaluate the demo system in two applications, risk visualization in resilience and archeological data visualization.

Planned Impact

New Technical Innovation:
1. Novel quality metrics for quantifying conflicts of visual mapping between different layers in a geo-spatial visualization system.
2. New visual designs for temporal data visualization in the context of geo-spatial visualization.

New Scientific Insight:
3. A focused research on visual channels in the context of geo-spatial visualization, which will result in better understanding of the use of visual channels in visualization.
4. A focused research on two applications where multiple data streams pose new and serious challenges, which will allow us to start tackling the real difficulties in implementing an apparently simple concept of map overlay.

New Technical Developments:
5. A demo system that features some new designs, such as dashboard on iPad.
6. A demo system that can help DSTL to advance its technical capability.

7. The research will benefit the mission-critical operations in the UK.
8. The research will benefit the archaeology community.
9. The research will benefit the GIS software developers and users.


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Walton S (2014) Visualizing Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (CMR) imagery: challenges and opportunities. in Progress in biophysics and molecular biology

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Chen M (2014) Visual Multiplexing in Computer Graphics Forum

Description We have discovered that different pieces of visual information are often combined together when they are delivered to human viewers who are capable of decompose the combined information into different pieces again. In many ways, this is similar to multiplexing in communication (e.g., radio signals from different stations are combined together in the air, and are decomposed by the receiver). Understanding this mechanism cognitively and proving its existence in theory and in practice provides an important tool in designing effective visualization for delivering many different pieces of information.
Exploitation Route Two journal papers resulted from this project.
- Theoretical and conceptual guidance to the visualization community.
- One medical application for visualizing cardiovascular magnetic resonance imagery.
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine

Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)




Description In this project, we have studied the means for visualizing multifield data in a geo-spatial context. In particular, we have developed a new concept, called visual multiplexing, and has demonstrated its use through an application of medical data visualization. Two journal papers resulted from this project.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Policy & public services