EU research to make sense of Big Data |

EU research to make sense of Big Data |

A new technology developed by researchers funded by the European Union could revolutionise the way we process data – Big Data.

With a whopping €6.5m of EU funding invested in this innovative initiative, the CEEDs project is comprised of 16 partners in nine countries (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK).

According to a European Commission press release published on August 11, the researchers within CEEDs have figured out a way to allow the human mind to generate new ideas more efficiently by transposing big data into an interactive environment. To do this, they built a so-called eXperience Induction Machine (XIM) that uses virtual reality to enable a user to “step inside” large datasets.

Set up at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, this immersive multi-modal environment contains a panoply of sensors that allows the system to present the information in the right way to the user, constantly tailored according to their reactions as they examine the data. These reactions – such as gestures, eye movements or heart rate – are monitored by the system and used to adapt the way in which the data is presented, according to the Commission’s press release.

Jonathan Freeman, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and coordinator of CEEDs, explains: “The system acknowledges when participants are getting fatigued or overloaded with information. And it adapts accordingly. It either simplifies the visualisations so as to reduce the cognitive load, thus keeping the user less stressed and more able to focus. Or it will guide the person to areas of the data representation that are not as heavy in information.”

The real-life application of this project is striking. For instance, it could help students study more efficiently or reporters cross-check sources more quickly.

After all, data is everywhere. Data is being gathered by machines like satellites and videos and datasets range from climate information and purchase transaction records to GPS signals. With so much data, today’s challenge is about what to do with it.

Possible applications for CEEDs range from inspection of satellite imagery and oil prospecting, to astronomy, economics and historical research.

“Anywhere where there’s a wealth of data that either requires a lot of time or an incredible effort, there is potential,” adds Professor Freeman. “We are seeing that it’s physically impossible for people to analyse all the data in front of them, simply because of the time it takes. Any system that can speed it up and make it more efficient is of huge value.”
The CEEDs team is currently in discussions with museums in the Netherlands and the UK and the United States, as well as public, charity and commercial organisations. For example, one of the applications is the visualisation of soil quality and climate in Africa in order to assist local farmers in optimising crop yields, according to the Commission’s press release.

“Big data doesn’t have to be scary,” said European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the EU’s Digital Agenda. “Projects like this enable us to take control of data and deal with it so we can get down to solving problems. Leaders need to embrace big data.”

CEEDs’ effectiveness will be validated through studies involving stakeholders from science, history and design. The consortium envisages genuine benefits from the CEEDs system. Think, for example, of a young pupil using CEEDs being able to see complex patterns in an astronomy data set, patterns which without CEEDs would only be perceptible to an experienced professor. By unleashing the power of the subconscious, CEEDs will make fundamental contributions to human experience. When we look back to life before CEEDs, we may liken our experience to living with our eyes closed.

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EU research to make sense of Big Data |

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