Rüdiger Westermann was honored an ERC advanced grant worth 2.3 million Euros in 2012 for research in the area of uncertainty visualization. Visualization has significantly changed the way humans analyze large amounts of multi-dimensional data. However, current visualization techniques can give only little or no guarantees regarding the confidence in the displayed information. Since this information is always affected by uncertainties in the data generation and visualization processes, the user can be lead to misclassifications, misinterpretations, and false assumptions.
The research project “SaferVis: Uncertainty Visualization for Reliable Data Discovery” challenges the status quo in visual data analysis with innovative ideas for next-generation technology that provides uncertainty visualization as a core methodology. It aims at developing a visual language for the communication of the variability of features due to uncertainties in the data generation and visualization processes. Underlying this research is the stochastic modeling of the uncertainty, and from these models to derive probability distributions for the occurrence of features that are affected by uncertainty. Especially in 3D, finding meaningful visualizations of the effect of uncertainty is extremely demanding and requires going far beyond existing approaches.
Besides radically changing the way visual data exploration is performed, the research has the potential to strongly influence the way scientific measurements and computer simulations are carried out. The precise knowledge of uncertainties enables to discover quantitatively the data generation process, and it can, therefore, be used to quantify the sensitivity of a process and the generated results to the choice of parameterization over the input parameters. Hence, it is an additional vision to position uncertainty visualization as a future technology for guiding research towards the most reliable data generation process within a given uncertainty tolerance.