Inside Purdue's Envision Center

Inside Purdue's Envision Center

Purdue University’s remarkable center breaks away from the classroom experience and brings true multi-sensory discovery and learning to students.

By Krishna P.C. Madhavan, Laura L. Arns, and Gary R. Bertoline

There is no doubt that the last decade has seen an explosive increase in the quantity of data available for discovery and learning purposes. And this is a good thing—humans do, after all, process their data through a variety of senses: auditory, oral, and tactile senses, plus the sense of sight. Yet, the highly textual nature of traditional datasets has represented a purely visual data form that caters only to a small percentage of the number of methods in which humans can understand data. In other words, most of these large volumes of data are considered to be “perceptually inferior”; says Grok-It Concepts (Grok-It Science). This, in essence, is the problem that the field of data perceptualization attempts to address.

What is data perceptualization?
Data perceptualization deals with various theoretical and practical techniques that can translate large volumes of data into useful information by allowing, according to Stuart K. Card, “…a richer use of many [human] senses, including sound and touch, to increase the rate at which people can assimilate and understand information” (from “Visualizing Retrieved Information: A Survey,” IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, March 1996). And Grok-It Science states that while the fundamental principle underlying data perceptualization is intuitive and powerful, it is the process of translating data to overcome “perceptual inadequacy” itself that represents a new and emerging frontier in science and technology.

Students currently enrolled in various courses at Purdue, including courses such as Introduction to Augmented Reality, continue to team with researchers to produce classroom products that have direct and immediate use as mainstream data perceptualization tools. With its myriad facets, the Envision Center expects to make a significant contribution to bridging discovery and learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.