Stereograms are those old-fashioned postcards that have two pictures side by side mounted in front of an optical device that focuses them together to form a 3D picture. Antique shops often have boxes of these sepia classics from victorian times. Years later, these became popular again with the Viewmaster toy. No doubt when you were a child, you peered through your Viewmaster at 3D Disney images. I had a shiny red one with pictures of Donald Duck riding the Disneyland monorail. What does this trip down memory lane have to do with enterprise dashboards? Well, stick with The Dashboard Spy for another paragraph and I’ll bring it all together. First, another detour.
In 1979, the first autostereogram was created. This allowed a 3D effect to come from only one image and without googles or anyother device. However, the big caveat was that you had to learn to cross your eyes and unfocus your vision in a certain way. When the Magic Eye series of books came out in 1993, this became quite a sensation with 3 books spending a total of 34 weeks on the NY Times bestseller list. Many people simply couldn’t manage the effort it took to see the hidden 3D pictures. It required a zen-like “not trying” approach that was frustrating.
OK, now back to the world of enterprise dashboards. The brainiacs at the University of Maryland studying advanced web-based data mining, fusion and visualization interface techniques modeled the data regarding the College Park Tornado of 2001. The results can be studied at this page on their 4D Visualization Dashboard.
I’ll show you the most interesting dashboard screenshot first. It’s what they call a self-stereo graphic. You cross your eyes, unfocus your vision and get a 3D visualization right on the dashboard. In other words, it’s an autostereogram-powered enterprise dashboard. Unbelievable, right? By the way, I have not been able to get the effect right. I was able to do it 13 years ago, but I’m out of practice. Tell me if any of you Dashboard Spies out there have any success. Maybe we’ll need those blue and red paper 3D glasses after all!
The rest of the dashboard screenshots follow. These screens show an expand and drill down path. Note that the University page explains the visualization details in full. Hardcore viz junkies should definitely check it out.
Homework: Practice on these stereograms from the Magic Eye books. Also, be sure you know what you’re doing in the current world of 2D dashboards before you go to a 3D or 4D executive dashboard. Study the examples in Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data.
So what or who is The Dashboard Spy? As his about page states, The Dashboard Spy is just a guy interested in the design of enterprise dashboards. He could not find any executive dashboard design source books (or even screenshots of real business dashboards) and so set about creating his own. Finally convinced to post his extensive collection of dashboard screenshots online, he was amazed to find how popular it has become. If you have a digital dashboard, balanced scorecard, or any business intelligence graphic to share, send an email to info _at_ dashboardspy.com. Also check out The Dashboard Spy’s books on enterprise dashboards. His current favorite is Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices for IT, the only book on actually implementing executive dashboards.