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Innovation & Startups

Touch your data with Kinetica

The Internet has allowed us instant access to more data than we ever imagined. Wikipedia is getting fatter and fatter everyday! However, as information proliferates, the question of how to organize it becomes more pressing. In the past, simple spreadsheets would suffice, but a new company in Pittsburgh wants to tap into the tactile nature of devices like tablets and smartphones and create data you can move and touch.

Jeffrey Rzeszotarski, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute developed Kinetica with assistant professor Niki Kittur. Rzeszotarski says Kinetica's goal is to make data interaction intuitive and allow data to be manipulated more easily.

"I just heard a good quote today that it's not about big data, it's about big answers," Rzeszotarski says. "We are trying to think of ways we can show the data so that people understand what it means and feel empowered to do something with it."


So far, the pair has invited users to manipulate all sorts of data, ranging from what one might find on the back of a cereal box to data related to the Titanic.

"In our testing, we've found that because it matches people's intuition, people can make more findings and communicate their findings better," Rzeszotarski says.

Excel users analyzing data on Titanic shipwreck passengers might extract facts such as the passengers' average age, but Kinetica users also saw data relationships, like the association between age and survival. While learning to use Excel spreadsheets to their maximum potential may be time consuming and boring, Kinetica presents data that seems to be alive as it moves across the screen based upon intuitive gestures. Kinetica users can manipulate information using their fingers to sort, filter, stack, flick and pull data points as needed to answer questions or examine data interaction.

The program also allows users to view multiple data points simultaneously.

"People often try to make sense of data where you have to balance many dimensions against each other, such as deciding what model of car to buy," Kittur says. "It's not enough to see single points—you want to understand the distribution of the data so you can balance price vs. gas mileage vs. horsepower vs. head room."

So when can we get our hands on this magical app? Rzeszotarski says he's still working on it. He recently obtained funding from AlphaLab for Kinetica's parent company, DataSquid and is in the process of testing the app. To get updates as they develop, sign up for Kinetica's mailing list here.
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