The 20" gap

A representation of the social fabric of incoming mails. Credits: Daniel Smilkov and Deepak Jagdish, Immersion

The flow of data on the Internet is relentless and huge, and, although just a fraction of that, also the flow of data reaching our screens (cell phone, tablet, laptop,...) has grown incredibly over the last ten years. 

The Internet speed has grown in synch with this increase of data, sometimes it has grown even faster, which results in our perception of a faster Web. But the last 20", the one separating the screen from our grey matter still represent a gap that is actually getting larger as the need for perceiving meaning out of data on the screen gets more and more complex.

At the Media Lab a research team, Macro Connection, is trying to address the 20" gap by providing a rendering of data that makes the semantics pop out of the screen, thus simplifying the understanding.

Out of that work a start up, Immersion, has been created to address specifically the deluge of emails we are receiving every day (I've passed the 200 thresholds per day, and you?).

Take a look at both the article and at the web site to see how researchers are trying to address this issue.

I feel the rendering of data, their transformation into semantics, is becoming a crucial issue. The approach taken by Immersion is a good one since the rendering is not just based on incoming data but also on the way we are using those data. This is a pivotal step: semantics in most cases is related to both the data and to the person that eventually makes use of those data. If we forget this and focus on the incoming data only we are missing an important part.

Clearly, in many situation data have to be rendered irrespective of the actual viewer; imagine the rendering of traffic data in a city, displayed on a big screen on the main square: that rendering is viewed by thousands of people at the same time, no personalisation is possibile. On the other hand, those same date displayed on your cell phone should provide a specific meaning, related to where you are going because that is what matter to you most.

I can imagine that looking at that big screen on the main square with Google Glass should result in a conversion of that image into one that is customised to me. That would involve quite a bit of processing and interaction among networks and service centres, a very complex scenario that has to result in a seamless experience for me.

Telecom Italia within the framework of the EIT ICT Labs, in conjunction with the MIT, have launched the Big Data Challenge and has generated an impressive response with over 1,200 participants. In April we will see the outcome of that. For sure Data rendering is one of the most exciting area of research for the coming years, involving ICT as well as cognitive science and brain understanding.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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