Intermezzo: Is AnRep3D data visualisation?

Some readers will respond immediately that this is a stupid question, because a 3D-graph generator is clearly visualising data. Yet it’s a bit more complicated, because the definition of “data-visualisation” has been narrowed down during the last decades. It is about sharing a message with the help of graphs. Of course a lot of people will know Stephen Few and Hans Rosling, but they are not the only ones talking about sharing information with the help of images. Recently I contacted a professor in the Netherlands, who told me he objected against 3D graphs, because this type of graph does not share the right message. His movie on vimeo is about the dangers of 3D and I agree. Firstly, because it is dangerous to show 3D pictures in 2D and secondly because he was talking about bringing a message across and then 3D can also be confusing!

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels

But… then why did we launch AnRep3D in the first place?  Readers who witnessed the start of AnRep3D – and perhaps even know about VRBI by Scientassist – will realise that we created the 3D-graph generator as a tool for “Visual Mining”. It’s also stated on our website that we want to give the experts control over their own data again, without all kinds of nerds making the decisions for them. The human eye and the related visual system is a very powerful data mining tool. Visualising data indeed, but not to spread a message. It’s meant to offer a different perspective at one’s own data.

And then I suddenly realised that this will only be understood by people who actually click on the screenshot and watch the real 3D-graph. If they don’t, it looks like we are just showing 3D-data in a flat picture. That would be the wrong message.

However, the only thing we want to communicate by offering a demonstration is the power of our 3D-graphs and the 3D-graph generator. Unfortunately the number of people watching the actual HTML5 graph is going down rapidly. The Dutch professor may be right after all, because it seems we are spreading the wrong message (or the right message in a wrong way).

We are offering real 3D-graphs in HTML5 (JavaScript and WebGL underneath, with the help of X3DOM) and people can watch such a spatial graph by rotating, tilting, translating, changing viewpoints and so on. Our 3D-graphs are not a flat picture, but offer real depth. In the past we even created stereoscopic images, but those days are gone now.

I probably should not have shared screenshots of the 3D-graphs, but only animated gifs or short movies. It turns out WordPress supports animated gifs after all, so probably I won’t present such a screenshot again.

click here for the original 3D-graph

In the end I have to thank professor Dullaert, because he warned me that I am sending the wrong message. The message should be that we offer a powerful (visual) mining tool for experts who want to look at their own data – just like Tableau does in 2D. No more screenshots again, because 3D-graphs are just 3D. They will lose their meaning when reduced to a flat image.

For those who want to try the 3D-graph generator themselves, the package can be downloaded here for free. The Scientassist website offers some background and a white paper with graph package are available at Charles Warter. More explanations and instructions can be found at our YouTube-channel.

About AnRep3D

AnRep3D is the new company, founded after the handover of Scientassist (together with VRBI) to one of my sons. From now I will focus on three-dimensional graphs for the financial markets, showing the main figures from annual reports in comparison. As per 2021 a second product is available: EnRep3D. It is meant to visualise energy. Although the engine is the same, the texts, manual, website and examples (including blogposts) are focused at energy.
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