Winner of the 2003 edition of NSF Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge, in the Illustration category, this ferris wheel-like arrangement, created by seniors at Boston University, was seen as an elegant solution for managing unwieldly amounts of information. The three-dimensional interface organizes computer contents by their relationships rather than their physical position on a hard drive. Each spiderweb thread marks the ties between folders holding contents related to the open file folder (center, in purple).
The program displays relationships that would not be clear in a normal two-dimensional file tree, says Adam Miezianko, who created it with three fellow seniors at Boston University in Massachusetts. Miezianko says the system, built with OpenGL on a Linux platform, could be applied to any sort of hierarchical database, from corporate organizational charts to genetic or ecosystems data. The software could find, for example, all far-flung files containing data on mammals that live in tree canopies. The user can rotate, zoom into, pan across, and spin the three-dimensional file tree to see all possible links with varying criteria.
Boyce Rensberger, a member of the judge panel, said the screen snapshot was "visually striking". "It's a good example of a way of organizing somewhat abstract information into categories, things that are normally not visual ... showing degrees of relationship".