Narwhal - A Far-Reaching Geospatial Data Library
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Thursday, 13 December 2012

A new software library that can be used to analyze complex geospatial data has been released by Microsoft Research. Narwhal is a software library that has been developed as part of the work for the WorldWide Telescope visualization engine, but has wider uses. The data doesn’t even have to be ‘location based’ in the traditional sense.

The new library is designed to make use of the WorldWide Telescope (WWT). This is a piece of software from Microsoft that you can use to view astronomical maps based on images from the best ground and space-based telescopes around the world. It can also be used to view location based data.

What’s less obvious is that you can use it to show any sort of data set or time series data, rendering up to half a million data points.  

 

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Having developed the ability to view data sets, Microsoft then created Layerscape, an Excel add-in that can be used to load location and time-based data into the WWT visualization environment. One example given of a suitable data set would be data that contains the latitude, longitude, magnitude, and depth for earthquakes.

However, this latest development adds the ability to use the WWT from your applications. In a blog post about the new release, Rob Fatland, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections, puts forward the new library as a solution to the problem of visualizing complicated data, saying:

“Perhaps you have a model of an electrical impulse traveling through a maze of 7,000 neurons. Or you have recovered the dive trajectories for the 43 Weddell seals you tagged last summer, or you just derived the magnetic field interactions between Jupiter and Callisto, or the Jaguar supercomputer has finally finished your solution for the thermodynamic structure of the Earth.”

He goes on to explain:

“We built WorldWide Telescope (WWT) to take advantage of your PC graphics card and now you can look at 500,000 data points as they unfold in time.”

There’s video at http://www.layerscape.org/Content/Index/756 that shows the sort of thing Narwhal is capable of.

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 narwhal1icon

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