Visualizing Real-Time Multivariate Data Using Preattentive Processing

Christopher G. Healey, Kellogg S. Booth and James T. Enns
Publishing date
January 31, 1994
35 pages
A new method is presented for visualizing data as they are generated from real-time applications. These techniques allow viewers to perform simple data analysis tasks such as detection of data groups and boundaries, target detection, and estimation. The goal is to do this rapidly and accurately on a dynamic sequence of data frames. Our techniques take advantage of an ability of the human visual system called preattentive processing. Preattentive processing refers to an initial organization of the visual system based on operations believed to be rapid, automatic, and spatially parallel. Examples of visual features that can be detected in this way include hue, orientation, intensity, size, curvature, and line length. We believe that studies from preattentive processing should be used to assist in the design of visualization tools, especially those for which high speed target, boundary, and region detection are important. Previous work has shown that results from research in preattentive processing can be used to build visualization tools which allow rapid and accurate analysis of individual, static data frames. We extend these techniques to a dynamic real-time environment. This allows users to perform similar tasks on dynamic sequences of frames, exactly like those generated by real-time systems such as visual interactive simulation. We studied two known preattentive features, hue and curvature. The primary question investigated was whether rapid and accurate target and boundary detection in dynamic sequences is possible using these features. Behavioral experiments were run that simulated displays from our preattentive visualization tools. Analysis of the results of the experiments showed that rapid and accurate target and boundary detection is possible with both hue and curvature. A second question, whether interactions occur between the two features in a real-time environment, was answered positively. This suggests that these and perhaps other visual features can be used to create visualization tools that allow high-speed multidimensional data analysis for use in real-time applications. It also shows that care must be taken in the assignment of data elements to preattentive features to avoid creating certain visual interference effects.