Magazine article Online

Information Visualization Product Developments

Magazine article Online

Information Visualization Product Developments

Article excerpt

My last column (January 1999 ONLINE) described some of the underlying principles and basic research relating to information visualization--the graphical or pictorial display of search results. This issue's column continues that theme by describing a few specific products incorporating visualization technology. Visualization is an extremely active and burgeoning area of research, and we can expect to see developments occur at a rapid pace for the next few years. One indication of its importance is the appearance of books on the subject. For example, the latest catalog from Academic Press (AP) announces Readings in Information Visualization [1]. According to AP's catalog, this book "defines the emerging field of Information Visualization and offers the first-ever collection of the classic papers on Information Visualization..." and "...includes the classic source papers as well as a collection of cutting-edge work." Its contents are a good sampling of the technologies involved in visualization: graphic informat ion processing, representation of large knowledge databases, and graphical presentation of relational information.

Although several visualization products can be accessed and used on the Internet, many are still in the research or beta-testing phase. One of the leaders in applying visualization technology to the problems of information retrieval is Manning & Napier Information Services (MNIS), which has incorporated visualization modules into its DR-LINK and MAP-IT retrieval products. Both of these products must be licensed (for a fee) from MNIS, but demonstrations of them are available on the MNTS Web site, http://www.mnis.net.

DR-LINK (Document Retrieval using LINguistic Knowledge) is a full-fledged commercial online search service that accepts queries in natural language and presents its results in a variety of ways. The visualization capabilities of DRLINK are at present unique in the industry. One performs a search on a topic and then requests one of two types of graphical output. The first uses bibliometric techniques to generate a series of bar graphs presenting statistical data on the retrieved set of results. Figure 1, taken from the DR-LINK demonstration on the MNIS Web site, shows such a graph. The various areas of the display rank the authors, subjects, and organizations represented in the retrieved set. This type of graph is very useful and convenient, particularly when the retrieved set contains a large number of items, because it shows the most highly posted terms at a glance and allows users to quickly home in on those that are most relevant. The second form search output displays document frequency by date; using it , one can quickly identify when interest in a subject peaked or waned. Figure 2 shows a sample of this type of graph. This also is a very powerful tool for searchers.

MNIS also has developed software for analyzing the output of patent searches. Its MAP-IT (Management and Analysis of Patent Information Text) software--which is used on the IBM patent site--provides searching capability on the full text of United States patents since 1974 using natural language. (Note that MAP-IT currently works with the Netscape browser only.) It incorporates a visualizer for displaying the output, which can display cluster (scatter) plots and correlation plots to help users identify patents with similar claims, perhaps from different companies. …

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