Most of us have been there at one time or another: seated in a conference room, stunned and glassy-eyed as we’re confronted by deck after deck of charts and graphs courtesy of the World’s Most Reviled Office Application.
German Volker Schweisfurth may have a way out for us all.
Schweisfurth has created a way to visualize data using 3D printed sculptures which suggest a way to display data which may well be more memorable and certainly easier to apprehend than the typical graph or chart.
With a background in software engineering and economics, Schweisfurth has also been called on to deliver a rather large number of speeches and presentations related to his expertise, and he still does.
“Presentations, visualizations and consultations I’ve done them all, but in my time doing that, I realized how low the retention rate is,” Schweisfurth told Sculpteo. “Most of the statistical data that we read on a weekly basis doesn’t really stick with us, we usually forget more than half of it. So about three years ago I decided to use 3D Printing to make digital data tangible, so that it can accompany PowerPoint slides or any other presentations.”
He says the key data from a spreadsheet is often lost on an audience when it’s presented as a 2D graph, but he finds that a physical object which can be held and manipulated physically allows an audience to interpret data in a new light.
“A 3D representation offers the ability to really knock home a certain data set with everyone that will see it,” Schweisfurth says. “People probably will not go rummaging through the Internet looking to find a report from the World Bank about population estimations in 2050, and they may never realize that the population of China will be quickly passed by that of India.”
But with 3D printing, he says an audience can quickly assimilate that sort of data on a more tangible level. Schweisfurth uses the 3D printing service bureau Sculpteo to build representations of his data, and they often end up looking sculptural as well as informative. He’s convinced that the future holds the promise of 3D printed data sculptures gracing tables at board meetings and sales conferences.
“When I started the project I had a rough idea of the cost of such a thing, but I didn’t expect it to be that affordable,” Schweisfurth said. “Some of the infographics I turned into 3D didn’t cost more than 30 euros and it’s possible to make almost any statistic dramatically pop for fewer than 100 euros.”
He calls his creations “MeliesArt,” and he offers a selection of them on his Sculpteo web store.
As for what he plans going forward, Schweisfurth says he looks forward to applying a more varied array of surface textures to his data displays, preparing them for the visually impaired and exploring innovations in haptic surfaces.
His current examples of the data sculptures include a representation of the per capita debt level of German Bundesländer, rent levels in Duesseldorf by square meter and a representation of how the world’s population will be distributed by the year 2050.
What do you think of Volker Schweisfurth’s data sculptures which extract data from sources like spreadsheets and turn it into 3D printed pieces? Can you see applications for his technique? Let us know in the 3D Printed Data Sources forum thread on 3DPB.com.