Doing better storytelling with opinion polling

One of the more intriguing demos I saw at Georgia Tech’s People and Technology Forum 2012 a week ago is one with the seemingly obtuse name of “Tangible Anchoring.”

I’d taken a look at this project at an earlier technology demo at Georgia Tech and it continues to be refined and enhanced.

In the video above, Susan Robinson a PhD student in the Synaesthetic Media Lab at Georgia Tech talks about how it works.

It’s an effort to come up with something better than the “Magic Wall” type of displays you see on shows such as CNN’s “The Situation Room.”

Tangible Anchoring

The hub of the project is a tabletop data display. You can use objects (in the demo, lighted blocks) on the tabletop to query and filter databases displayed in a map view of United States or in other ways.

MultiMedia content, such as videos can also be launched from the tabletop. the tabletop view is also displayed on one of three screens above the table. The left and right screens could be used for to play those videos or switch to other video sources.

One of the sources that can feed the databases being manipulated on the tabletop is an Android issue-based polling app called iOpinion, developed as part of the project.

One model for using iOpinion is for reporters in the field to use the app to do “man in the street’ poll questions, including shooting video of the poll subjects and capturing capture geo-location information from the phone. It could also be used as a downloadable app with the ability to take an individual poll only once. Either way, it’s part of the data layers on the desktop that can be quickly and visually analyzed.

The students working on the project are Susan Robinson, John Chandler, Paul O’Neill, Basheer Tome, Jinhyun Kim, and Aman Parnami. Associate Professor Ali Mazelek of the Synlab oversees the research.

They see the project as a convergence of tabletop computing, mobile user-generated content, the Web and broadcast channels.

A paper published by the team says their research “explores how computational media might be used either to represent multiple viewpoints or enable viewers to examine bias, analyze opinions, and develop a balanced perspective.”

Work on this idea has been going on for a few years and it’ll be interesting to see where it goes. It’s a research project, not a polished project, but you can see how it could be powerful data storytelling tool for a variety of uses.

(Photo from Georgia Tech’s Synlab)