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    2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view

    allan.walker.0

      2D or 3D.png

      As some of you might be interested: Geoserver has put 3D on their roadmap.  I know, yes, 3D = bad for most visualizations, and I'm definitely in the camp of no exploding 3D pie charts, but this capability might be useful.  Here's a use case for mapping that might be of interest.

       

      The maps above uses SF Opendata, but are rendered in different programs.  The top one is obviously Tableau, with a bit of geo-hackery going on, the bottom one uses ArcScene, but could have also been QGIS with the QGIS2threejs plugin.

       

      When Geoserver allows us to push Z-axis (or extrude by a height attribute), we'll be able to push this sort of thing into Tableau.

       

      But I still don't know which is better.  I know the 3D model can obscure and hide objects, but then again, multiple marks in 2D can do the same.  Maybe if we can not only pan, but tilt as well it makes sense.

       

      Anybody have any strong opinions one way or the other?

        • 1. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
          Noah Salvaterra

          They both look 2D to me, but without special glasses there are very few ways around that.

           

          It is hard for me to think of a good data visualization use case. In addition to the obscuring issue you brought up there is one of scale, most humans spend most of their day relatively close to the ground but may travel miles along it. Not to mention perspective distorting scale In all directions...


          It sure does look cool, so I would love to play with it. I'm sure such a feature would get used, probably overused, with various degrees of success and tastefulness, mostly not much. Generally the confusion would outweigh the potential for engagement, so my guess is that Tableau will protect us from it, and that is probably for the best.

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          • 2. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
            Shawn Wallwork

            Where's the 3-D? My monitor doesn't support 3-D glasses so I'm only seeing two 2-D visualizations. One of them is attempting to trick me into seeing it as 3-D, but in actuality these are only white and a range of blue pixels that are arranged on my flat screen monitor in an attempt to trick my brain into thinking there is a third dimension.

             

            So the question you're really asking is a 2-D map that doesn't have perspective distortion better or worse than a 2-D map that uses perspective distortion to give the illusion of a third dimension, which in actuality doesn't exist.

             

            And of course your selection of faded colors in the top map is a false comparison when compared to the bolder, deeper, richer colors of the bottom illusion.

             

            Which is "better"? Depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

             

            --Shawn

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            • 3. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
              allan.walker.0

              Shawn Wallwork wrote:

               

              Depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

               

              --Shawn

               

              Shawn, I simply want to answer the "Where" questions! As you know, I'm a big fan of Edward Tufte.  Here's a brilliant post on his forum about mapping.  The example he uses is a topo of Swiss Alps.  It uses a draped raster over a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) to give a three dimensional effect.  I could have (and probably should have) done the same with the example above, so that the distortion (actually the Z-axis) is less pronounced.

               

              But, I'm still not sure the Swiss Alps example actually fits well with the reducing data-ink ethos, and also, the colors used are not color blind friendly.  It's also one of those maps where it would be difficult to place a data layer on top of without cluttering things up.  This page, from Stamen, is where I'm headed, although I've been tinkering with this (my own version of it) and this. Personally, I think for reducing data-ink this is (almost) perfect.

               

              But, given Google Map's recent upgrade to allow a Google Earth 3D view in the re-launched maps (noting over a billion downloads of GE), my enthusiasm for "3D" has returned. The capability allows me to model as well as just "map". Disclosure: I used to work with Boeing Autometric Battlescape (a fore runner to Keyhole, which was the fore runner to GE).  Now that cities are invested in #OpenData, and more of these models are being published, joining data to them gives me not just city building detail, but I could model underground as well.

               

              london_underground2.gif

               

              For me though, as nice as this is to look at, it's not accomplishing the BI+GIS+Location Analytics mission.  Tableau adds the BI: what stations are busiest, when.  What's the throughput of students?  When does crime occur? Can the routes be optimized? (I can already answer that question with Shortest Route Path either by calling PostGIS/Pgrounting functions or going out to R):

               

              PGrouting.png

              • 4. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                Jonathan Drummey

                If the color ramp in the two views was closer I feel like I'd have a more informed opinion. Given the 2D and faux-3D views, I have a mild preference for the 3D view. I find that the 3D view is more memorable. I first looked at this post yesterday and couldn't tell you much about the 2D view, I definitely remembered the darker bands in the 3D view going across the city.

                 

                I don't think I'm treading new ground here, I think there are some different dimensions we could compare between the goal of the viz (as expressed by the designer) and the experience of the viewer. For example:

                 

                - Is it accurate? What level of accuracy/specificity is needed?

                - Is it memorable?

                - Does it lead the user to some next action, conclusion, etc?

                - Can the user see all the data?

                - Does it invite further exploration? Is further exploration desired/wanted/possible?

                 

                For example, in the 3D view I'm curious as to what's going on in that area right "behind" downtown. If the interface allows for exploration, then the 3D view would engage me more than the 2D view. On the other hand, if the 3D viz did not allow me to see that area then I'd prefer the 2D view that would let me get a more accurate picture.

                 

                At TCC12 I went to Jock Mackinlay's session on data viz designs and the question of using 3D came up, and what I remember him saying at the time was that 3D can (sometimes) work when we're visualizing real-world things, for me this seems to be a case. I don't know that a similar elevated map of something like, say, crime rates or number of wifi hotspots would work better in 3D than in 2D.

                 

                Jonathan

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                • 5. Re: Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                  allan.walker.0

                  Jonathan Drummey wrote:


                  At TCC12 I went to Jock Mackinlay's session on data viz designs and the question of using 3D came up, and what I remember him saying at the time was that 3D can (sometimes) work when we're visualizing real-world things, for me this seems to be a case. I don't know that a similar elevated map of something like, say, crime rates or number of wifi hotspots would work better in 3D than in 2D.

                   

                  Jonathan

                   

                  Jonathan, - thanks for the input.  I watched the TCC12 streaming video, and it was Christian's talk about story telling that captured my imagination.  Especially the cholera example.  Here's a video that uses the same software I used above to tell that story (you can skip to 4:43)

                   

                   

                  Given the example of WiFi to play with, yes, 2D is probably great for showing location: but what about showing the RF bloom?

                  • 6. Re: Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                    Noah Salvaterra

                    It would be a really nice option if you had a data that is both necessarily geographic and where altitude is a compelling and inseparable part of the story. Thinking about New York city (because the buildings are tall) a couple ideas came to mind:

                    1. Apartment prices. Even the basement would be expensive by most city standards, but penthouses in bright orange fading to blue as you get lower in the building or further from good neighborhoods or even as the views change rotating around the building.
                    2. Evacuation times. Either to escape from buildings or even from the city. How would cutting power, elevators, rail travel, time of day etc change this map?

                    Imagine walking around the streets with glasses that allowed you to see this information encoded on your view in color (Google glass?). These might make for an interesting exploration and conversation. I'm sure there are others too, but such data is hard to come by, for now...

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                    • 7. Re: Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                      Shawn Wallwork

                      Imagine height of building is based on # of 3-D gamers living inside * # of hours gaming:

                      Perspective-1.jpg

                      Which building has the most gamer/hours and by how much? Same question for these buildings:

                       

                      Perspective-2.jpg

                      And that one tucked in behind the other buildings, is it more? Probably, but how much more?

                       

                      I know these are ground level perspective drawings and you're doing aerials . So the question is how far off axis can we tilt the view before we misrepresent (or obfuscating) the data. Of course my personal answer is: Not much, if any.

                       

                      --Shawn

                       

                      Here's another one. Which board is longest?

                       

                      Perspective with shade.png

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                      • 8. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                        Cristian Vasile

                        Which board is longest?

                        The one without 3D perspective, located in the center.

                         

                        Regards,

                        Cristian.

                        • 9. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                          Cristian Vasile

                          Allan,

                           

                          Using a 2D monitor/flat surface a correct viz made in 2D could help me to understand and evaluate the intrinsic message faster than pseudo 3D viz, despite the fact that 3D looks more appealing for the brain.

                           

                          But, in the near future human-machine interface technology will evolve for example Oculus RIFT  the VR device will produce a revolution in a reasonable timeline not only for games!

                          Other awesome interface is called INFORM (Tangible Media Group) and could have also the potential to switch between 2D and 3D viz with the speed of a mouse click.

                           

                          Regards,

                          Cristian.

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                          • 10. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                            Shawn Wallwork

                            HA! And had I ask "Which board is the shortest?" Same answer, right? Thanks for playing Cristian!

                             

                            --Shawn

                             

                            PS: If this thing keeps on going I feel a massive rant coming on. (Well maybe just a blog.)

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                            • 11. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                              allan.walker.0

                              Noah Salvaterra wrote:

                               

                              It would be a really nice option if you had a data that is both necessarily geographic and where altitude is a compelling and inseparable part of the story. Thinking about New York city (because the buildings are tall) a couple ideas came to mind:

                              1. Apartment prices. Even the basement would be expensive by most city standards, but penthouses in bright orange fading to blue as you get lower in the building or further from good neighborhoods or even as the views change rotating around the building.

                              Imagine walking around the streets with glasses that allowed you to see this information encoded on your view in color (Google glass?).

                               

                              Noah, I could grab the Apartment Prices from the Zillow API and do just that. But instead, I used the MTA Subway to encode the view by color:

                               

                              NYC 1.jpg

                               

                              NYC 2.jpg

                               

                              The data is out there...

                              • 12. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                                Shawn Wallwork

                                So I screen captured your map and added a few comments:

                                 

                                Allans Map.jpg

                                 

                                Curious to know what you think.

                                 

                                --Shawn

                                • 13. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                                  allan.walker.0

                                  Shawn,

                                   

                                  I could dig the building ID out of the DBF file, and do a look up on the building height for you.  The building heights haven't been encoded in color: that's the lighting position that is shading the buildings (I could turn it off). Note, I haven't added any bar charts (yet) to the viz, but of course, I could do: if that was the unit of analysis.

                                   

                                  No analysis was performed on those renders - I was going to add the subway stations, and size them on average daily ridership.  Or, I could have used the gray scale in the buildings and encoded with Census 2010 data (housing/pop).

                                   

                                  Or, I could shove the whole scene into WebGL and allow for panning and tilting, so the audience could do a plane or elevation view, and drive it with URL parameters

                                  • 14. Re: 2D or 3D?  Depends on your point of view
                                    Shawn Wallwork

                                    Hi Allan. We seem to disagree on this. I hope we can recognize this. And agree, we disagree. Yes?

                                     

                                    --Shawn

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