If you’ve seen our introductory video or read our philosophy page you’ll notice we often say VisualCue is “powered by sight.” We spend a lot of time talking about the speed and power of the eyes and brain to decode and comprehend images.

It’s because our entire approach to data visualization and operational intelligence is centered on the presentation of information. It’s our firm belief that data is useless unless it can be easily consumed, understood and acted upon. There are dozens of data transformation tools out there to clean up your data (and we connect to the vast majority of them, just see our new data connections section) no tools have made any great innovations in presentation. It was a huge missed opportunity, because recent discoveries prove there is amazing power in your eyes.

As an operations management platform, VisualCue presents key performance indicators and other data points in pictures called Tiles so that you can see every entity in an entire data set at once and intuitively understand what’s going on with that data. Once you get the basic picture you can then put those Tiles on maps, diagrams or on your phone for even more insight.

Just look at this Mosaic view below. Every agent is represented in a picture with a color that your eyes quickly scan and focus on. Your eyes do this so fast you probably don’t even notice it happening. Why is that?

The VisualCue Platform

The Research

In 1995, Simon Thorpe, Denis Fize and Catherine Marlot conducted a study to find out just how fast the human visual system processes information.

They designed an experiment, wherein “subjects performed a go/no-go categorization in which they had to decide on the basis of a 20-ms presentation whether an image contained an animal or not.” The researchers used a method called event-related potentials to measure “…signs of neural processing well before the motor output” to try and get a clear picture as to just how fast the eyes communicate to the brain without the added time required to push a button or make a gesture. They showed the image for such a short amount of time that the subject’s eyes couldn’t move around the image to study it in detail.

What they discovered  was that (by an overwhelming majority of 94%) subjects could still correctly identify if an animal was in the picture or not at around 150ms. The researchers concluded that “a great deal of visual processing must have been completed before this time.”

These findings launched entirely new lines of scientific inquiry into human visual processing speed. As reported in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience recent findings have since discovered that people can categorize images in as little as 75-80ms and we can recognize faces in as little as 50ms. And this is just the beginning.

For example, scientists Aude Oliva and Philippe G. Schyns have begun experimenting on the effects that color has on category recognition and have discovered that “colors play a primary role in speeded scene recognition….”

Findings such as these have led to a new term called “UltraRapid Visual Categorization”, describing the amazing speed that lies at the heart of many of our daily visual tasks. Researchers and scientists are even re-evaluating how the eyes and brain communicate at the most fundamental level.

In true scientific fashion, these findings have brought up more questions than answers and there is still plenty of room for debate and further inquiry. But all current research tells us that by 150ms our eyes and brain have communicated enough information to allow for decisions to be made, and much of the actual processing happens even faster.

If the human eye can scan a complex nature scene and determine that there isn’t a trace of fur, feathers or any other animal in around a tenth of a second imagine how fast it can scan simple icons for colors. VisualCue works because your eyes can scan images much faster than they can read text. But they can process that information as well.

We are just beginning to understand the power of the eye to quickly process information, and are taking our first steps into understanding how intuitive, sight-driven visualization can make all the difference to an organization looking to use their data to spot inefficiency and make improvements. We’ve already seen some amazing results.

We’ll keep sharing new results as they occur but in the meantime this much is clear- our eyes are amazingly powerful things. It’s time we really used them.

See you next time,

The VisualCrew