ColorMoves: An Interactive Tool that Visualizes Scientific Data in a Colorful, Artistic, and Transformative Way
By Lori Cameron
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Most scientists would agree that nothing livens up a technical presentation like colorful images and cool graphics. But, more importantly, they can make the relevance and meaning of information instantly accessible.
“For extreme data sizes such as those being generated on today’s largest supercomputers, there is a need for tools that allow interactive exploration of data,” they say.
ColorMoves does just that.
As an interface that enables scientists to construct colormaps with contrast applied to regions of greatest interest, it also promotes interactive exploration of data through color. The ability to load several images into the interface window enables scientists to construct colormaps that are effective across time ranges, camera views, variables and more.
How ColorMoves works
Below is a picture of the ColorMoves user interface.
A: selection menu of color scales and discrete colors
B: viewing window
C: data distribution histogram
D: (left) pin splitter, color scale inserter, undo, redo, number of histogram bins
D. (right): color menu, export, opacity controls
D: (center) save, fit to screen, resize to original
E: histogram pin location highlight.
ColorMoves in action
Below is a simulation of an ocean system shown in the ColorMoves interface.
Here, four different data sets are compared using the rainbow colormap and a colormap with a more-muted palette. The muted palette is clearly the better of the two.
ColorMoves provides a wide range of color scales varying in hue, saturation, and value. These provide the building blocks needed to create focused attention, hierarchy of interest, categorical and intuitive association, as well as communicative visualization.
Here is an atmospheric simulation from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory rendered in six colormaps. The lower right version illustrates how the ability to control the luminance distribution is critical to optimizing discriminatory power.
Below are multiple images of the Ganymede magnetic field simulation from William Daughton, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
On the top left, the red-to-yellow color scale spans the full data range. Moving right, the red-yellow color scale decreases down to spanning only one percent of the data range. By narrowing the span of the color scale, the bowfront waves come into focus. The bottom row narrows in on the precise applied range that most clearly presents the bowfront features.
The opacity of the individual color scales is being adjusted in this baroclinic MPAS-Ocean data in a time-varying sequence in order to control the emphasis while maintaining a continuity of hues.
Neutron spectroscopy data often has features of interest on many orders of magnitude of intensity. ColorMoves allowed for a custom color map to emphasize the intensity variation. The ease of adjusting the color encoding makes identifying features of interest in the data much faster.
A time-varying simulation of a 250-meter asteroid impact in the ocean, rendered with a colormap developed in ColorMoves. The variables are the water fraction (blue), asteroid fraction (brown), and temperature (orange to yellow).
Lori Cameron is a Senior Writer for the IEEE Computer Society and currently writes regular features for Computer magazine, Computing Edge, and the Computing Now and Magazine Roundup websites. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on LinkedIn.