UCT/IDIA Visualization Laboratory

Visual Analytics Laboratory

8K Digital Dome


Chief Developer:

Iziko Planetarium Astronomer:

Postdoctoral Fellows:

Student Interns:

Big Data Visual Analytics: As scientific data sets become larger and more complex, it is necessary to migrate to new technologies to facilitate scientific analysis and exploration. With the advent of big data, cloud technologies provide a clean solution for managing and processing data sets that would otherwise be unmanageable. As we shift paradigms to having our scientific data living in the cloud, it is necessary to develop the tools and techniques necessary to enable science on these large data sets.

Large format visualisation platforms -- In astronomy, due to technological advancements, our data sets are becoming exponentially larger, as well as more complex. Large format visualisation platforms make it possible to view large data sets at close to native resolution and allow our "expert eyes" to discover interesting, exotic or unusual features in our data. The IDIA Wide Area Large Interactive Explorer (or WALIE) is an 8K resolution visualisation wall that allows us to be in "discovery mode", by viewing large areas of data at once, as well as "exploration mode" where we can do scientific analytics on features of interest, and view multiple analytics (graphs, statistics, ancillary data etc.) at the same time.

For a more immersive individual experience, the Cobra, is a 4K curved panorama curved visual display system. The Cobra Panorama to investigate and explore hyperspectral image sets and catalogue data, using existing software tools, as well as custom developed software that will be used across IDIA platforms.

Shared large-scale Immersive data visualization for large groups or research teams is being developed in collaboration with the Iziko Digital Dome and Planetarium, that furnishes 67 megapixels of projection real estate providing a unique perspective and allows for the rapid inspection of large data sets. With seating capacity of 140 people, this platform additionally provides a unique teaching and learning environment.

Visualisation software development -- Large data sets render conventional software tools unsuitable by being too slow or too cumbersome, and most current tools require the data to be local to the user. . IDIA is cloud based developing visualisation tools for data-intensive astronomy that will equip scientists with efficient and effective analytics on their large datasets. In collaboration with teams in at IAASA and NRAO, the Cube Analysis and Rendering Tool for Astronomy (CARTA) is being actively developed as a visualisation and visual analytics solution for data-intensive radio astronomy research.

Collaboration in the cloud -- As our data moves into the cloud, it is only natural that this is where the science will be done. Data sharing is made accessible by the nature of the cloud, which further allows for distributed collaborations and large science teams. Facilitating science in this new paradigm requires platforms that enable scientific analysis, as well as communication and the sharing of information. CyberSKA provides one such solution allowing for federated, distributed scientific collaboration and visualization.

Novel applications of emerging technologies to explore and discover: Virtual Reality has been in existence for some time, but its use in the context of data exploration in relative infancy. IDIA is pioneering software development in VR for the exploration of large multi-dimensional data sets, and most importantly, interaction with the data through analytics. More information here.

Immersive platforms are coming into their own as unique environments for visualising large, natively three dimensional data sets. The Cobra provides a semi-immersive perspective, while VR is entirely immersive, but an wholly individual experience. The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome offers a hybrid environment through its shared immersive experience, particularly useful for collaboration and teaching.

Public engagement: As Big Data more and more becomes part of everyday life and researchers across disciplines seek ways to exploit the extensive information available through the internet and from data collected every day across the globe, IDIA aims to communicate the latest innovations, technologies, and possibilities through lectures, shows and shorts at the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome. This venue lies at the intersection of scientific data visualisation and research, and science engagement and education.