Display modes

 What display modes might be used in experiencing your display?

This is a very tricky question, as the options seem ever-changing. One decision that always needs making is “for how long do I want this to work?” Think about, for example, QuickTime VR. A very forward-thinking researcher in the 1990s might have decided to publish incredible immersive views of her data, which today, just over 20 years later, would be largely unreadable. To make choices about display modes, one needs to think clearly about goals related to more of the 10 Questions discussed at this site (especially re: audience, explore-explain, dimensions).

What do we mean by display modes, exactly? A sample list would include: hardcopy in black & white or color;  display on a screen (typically in color); stereoscopic or “3D” display (using one of many possible technologies); holographic display; and more to come in the future. In addition, displays can be static, moving, silent, narrated and/or interactive, and devices themselves can be more or less easily manipulable (e.g. touchscreen vs. keyboard+mouse).

We left this question for last (number 10!) exactly because it is so nuanced and complex.

Example: How many ways can we look at “what’s in” our Milky Way Galaxy?

The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy. It’s topology is like a special pancake that you’d make by pouring out batter into a spiral  shape on a griddle.   Our host star, the Sun, is about three-quarters of the way out from the pancake’s center to its edge, embedded in the thin layer of batter so as to be approximately centered between the griddle and the top surface of the pancake.

To understand the Milky Way’s spiral shape a bit more, and Sun’s location relative to the so-called spiral arms, one can enhance what starts as a static, data-driven, image of the Milky Way’s arms using animation, in video.  This first video demonstrates enhancement and explanation of information in one display mode (a static image) using another  (video animation).

(And, for reference, as long as we’re talking display modes, here’s a link to the Keynote presentation that was used to make the Milky Way Arms video.)

Going beyond video playback on 2D flat screens, we can get fancy in explaining what’s in the Milky Way, using, for example, stereoscopic displays, a planetarium dome, and/or  VR headsets.  This next video advertises a project called “Gaia Sky” that lets users choose their display mode and download the appropriate code based on that choice.

Thus the Gaia sky project effectively chooses to NOT choose a display mode, and instead offer solutions depending on user preference.  This kind of graceful customization is difficult (and expensive) in many cases, but highly effective when it can be accomplished.

Lastly, an option where a user is immersed in an interactive environment, but given a “tour” of what to look for and do within that environment can take an already “dynamic” (e.g. video) display mode and make it richer. An upcoming WorldWide Telescope Tour of the Milky Way’s structure offers an excellent example of this richness–so watch this space to see what that looks like!

Last revised: 12th of August, 2018, by Alyssa Goodman.