Interactive tool to help brain process big data efficiently

11 Aug 2014

EU researchers are developing an interactive system that not only presents big data the way a user likes it, but constantly changes its presentation to avoid brain overload.

Researchers within the Collective Experience of Empathic Data Systems (CEEDs) are transposing big data into an interactive environment to allow the human mind to generate new ideas more efficiently.

At Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, they have built what they are calling an eXperience Induction Machine (XIM) that uses virtual reality to enable a user to ‘step inside’ large data sets.

XIM contains sensors that allow the system to present the information in the right way to users, constantly tailored according to their reactions – such as gestures and heart rate – as they examine the data.

“The system acknowledges when participants are getting fatigued or overloaded with information,” said Jonathan Freeman, professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and co-ordinator of CEEDs. 

“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.”

Practical applications

Possible applications for the technology abound, from students studying more efficiently to historical research to retailers analysing feedback from customers.

“Anywhere where there’s a wealth of data that either requires a lot of time or an incredible effort, there is potential,” added Freeman.

Some €6.5m of EU funding has been invested in this initiative, under the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme.

“Big data doesn’t have to be scary,” said Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for the 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.”

Brain and data image via Shutterstock

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic