Information Access Seminar

Investigating What Makes 3D Visualizations Difficult

Friday, November 22, 2013
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Marilyn Tremaine

Psychologists have known for approximately 50 years that individuals exhibit significant differences in spatial ability, differences that makes it extremely difficult for a large number of people to perform important spatial tasks. It has also been shown that there is a gender gap in spatial ability with males performing better on most spatial tasks. The advent of computers and the advances in science and medicine have created disciplines that low spatial individuals find difficult to enter. Even daily life has become harder for them because of complex information presentations that require spatial ability.

More recent work has shown that individuals can improve their spatial skills with practice in their specific domain, and several software applications have been written to support such practice. However, there is currently no body of knowledge that suggests how to teach spatial skills. This research is looking at what properties of scientific visualizations make them difficult for individuals to understand with the intent of building training applications that start with practice on easier to comprehend properties followed by more difficult ones.

We are currently looking at space-filling 3D visualizations, e.g., those used to show sediment layers in geology. This talk will present work that developed and then tested hypotheses about specific properties of the visualizations that were believed to make them more difficult to comprehend. Our work on projection visualizations has already shown that structured practice, ordering problem sets from easy to hard improved learning over random practice. Our intent is to use this current work to build an application supporting structured practice with space filling visualizations.

Marilyn Tremaine is a professor in Rutgers University's professional science master's program and in on the graduate faculties of electrical and computer engineering, communication and information, and the Rutgers business school. She currently is head of the Master in Business Science degree in user experience design and co-directs master's degrees in information technology and computers and social media. Prof. Tremaine's research focuses on understanding user problems with 3D visualization and the impact of user experience practices on sustained competitive advantage. Past research includes work on global software development, the effect of temporal structures on organizational efficiency, the development technology and interfaces to support stroke rehabilitation, and the creation of computer support meeting environments.

She has also been active in the ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) serving as vice-president of communications, chair of the advisory council, vice-president of finance, and president of SIGCHI. She chaired the CHI'86 Conference on Human Factors in Computing, the CSCW'92 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, the ASSETS'2000 Conference on Assistive Technology and the CUU'2002 Conference on Universal Usability. She has served on six technical journal editorial boards and has been technical program chair for ACM conferences twice. She recently served as the editor of the Journal of Usability Studies and the chair of CHI 2011's MatriarCHI event.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015