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3D Visualization Techniques: 2D and 3D Information Visualization Resources, Applications, and Future

From the "Introduction"
The human race is tremendously influenced by sensory perceptions. The way human beings understand, learn, grow, and adapt is based on the ability to perceive, view, and conceptualize thoughts and ideas.

Even the terms people use to describe the process of learning and understanding revolves around the word "see." When an idea pops into our head, or when a new concept moves from static jargon to understandable knowledge, we "see" it. Ideas become “clear," concepts are brought into "focus," and "a picture is worth a thousand words."

The use of visual metaphors to describe cognitive relationships and human thought processes are interwoven into our daily life and activities. Recent advances in the sciences, technology, and commerce have accelerated the desire of human beings to concentrate and focus on visual representation and metaphor in daily life. The availability and powerful capacity of computers, the explosion of information access and graphics via the Internet and media conglomerates, and the technological visual interfaces now becoming available through high-definition and plasma screens only fuel our desire and indeed our addiction for more visual and sensory input from many sources.

Perhaps the major difficulty people now face is an increasing amount of nonlinearity and complexity in their lives from this technology, which produces a world of counterintuitive inputs and outputs. The power to visualize and graphically represent results, ideas, solutions, and problems, not just as a flat one-dimensional presentation, but in two- or
multiple dimensions, as well as design and present collaborative dimensional spaces where more than one person can contribute to the thought processes of problem-solving and idea generation is a distinct possibility in the near future. This environment is the field of information visualization.

The field of information visualization is relatively new. Its foundational period is now ending, and it is rapidly moving forward into the marketplace. Since its beginnings in the 1980s with high-end, expensive computer workstations that
allowed for real-time and advanced interactive graphics for animation, space exploration, and visual effects in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) formats, information visualization technologies are readily available to anyone with a standard PC platform.

Numerous software companies are being launched that focus specifically on the mass-marketing of information visualization products, services, and experiments. Many of these companies and products are the focus of this report.

Many people believe information visualization is poised to go from its current anonymity—in medical and scientific applications—to the mainstream of application design and user interface for anyone with access to a PC.

Information organizations need to begin experimenting and be ready to move forward quickly into offering their information visually in 2D and 3D. The market will soon be inundated with products that focus specifically on serving up information in dimensions other than 1D, or text-based.

This report provides information on what 2D and 3D information visualization is, a short history of its development, why it is so important for information organizations, and who is working in this field.

Current applications of 2D and 3D information visualization technologies are presented in terms of current hardware/equipment, software applications, Web sites that focus on the use of this technology, and experiments.

Practical applications for information organizations to work with this technology is discussed in terms of economics, staffing, and equipment needed to begin experimentation and presentation to users.

This report ends with a look at what the future of 2D and 3D information visualization for information organizations will be in regards to challenges, concerns, trends, and visionary approaches to this technology.

Chapter 1 focuses on the field of information visualization itself, definitions, conceptualizing data types within the field, the challenges of representing information in 2D and 3D, 2D and 3D information visualization presentation
techniques, 2D and 3D information visualization in the Web environment, and an introduction to the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and eXtensible 3D (X3D) standards.

Chapter 2 is an extensive listing of resources in the area of 2D and 3D information visualization, categorized under journals; conferences; significant research groups/people; websites, presentations, news stories, and articles; and software products.

Chapter 3 discusses practical applications of 2D and 3D information visualization. It also provides concrete suggestions for information organizations to experiment and explore this topic in their own localized environment. For
suggestions on experimenting with software products, go to this chapter first. In addition, challenges confronting the information visualization community are listed here.

Chapter 4 examines the future of 2D and 3D information visualization, specifically related to information organizations, listing some of the field’s future applications and strengths for the processing, organization, description, searching, and presentation of information, and how the Web is a vital part of this transformation.

About the Author
Brad Eden is head, Web and Digitization services, for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Libraries. Previous positions include head, bibliographic and metadata services for the UNLV Libraries, as well as coordinator of technical services for the North Harris Montgomery Community College District. He is editor of OCLC Systems & Services: International Digital Library Perspectives, is associate editor of Library Hi Tech and The Journal of Film Music, and is series editor of the Routledge Music Bibliographies. He holds an MA and a PhD in musicology, as well as an MS in library science. He publishes in the areas of metadata, librarianship, medieval music and liturgy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. He recently edited Innovative Redesign and Reorganization of Library Technical Services: Paths for the Future and Case Studies (Libraries Unlimited, 2004) and is the author of Metadata and Its Applications (ALA TechSource, 2002).