What’s your raison d’être?

Does your company manufacture displays, projectors, or enabling technologies?  Does your group produce, curate, or distribute content? Does your team provide distribution, sales, integration, or support services for the display industry? If so, this article is for you. How often do you revisit your core mission? Return to examine your values? What you do and what you produce – do you ever wonder why it’s important? Clearly, it is always helpful to return to the basics, to revisit your raison d’être.

From the perspective of educational customers, there’s a solid and historically inspired reason for what you do. As far as your educational customer is concerned, your purpose – your raison d’être – is visualization. In the education market, we are speaking about visualization that leads to learning, to sense making, and to insight:

“The purpose of visualization is insight, not (pretty) pictures.”

Robert Kosara, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Why should we remind ourselves about this? Why does visualization matter? These are some of the key questions we will address here. I am frequently asked about the educational advantage of 3D, 4k, UHD, and (fill in your featured technology here). This is my response, a collective answer for the many folks who write to me, connect with me in person, or just wonder about these issues quietly in their minds, unnecessarily afraid of the answer.

In 2004, the NSF and US National Institutes of Health convened the Visualization Research Challenges Executive Committee to critically report on the potential of visualization technology. The resulting report explained the importance of visualization in this way:

“Visualization is a growing part of everyday life in every sector of society, from family life, to research and education, and even to homeland security and public health. We routinely depend on it every time a meteorologist puts a weather map into motion tracking the progress of hurricanes and alerting us to life-threatening weather conditions. Essential discoveries such as the structure of the molecules that control our lives and our genetic code are shared through images, physical models, and interactive displays that are generated today using visualization technologies. Such information is shared across the internet by students and scholars. Visualization plays a role in saving lives, accelerating discovery and promoting education through improved understanding”.

The report went on to explain why visualization is such a powerful learning tool:

“People are biologically equipped to make spatial inferences and decisions and experience refines their ability to do so. Visualizations can bootstrap this facility metaphorically, by mapping elements and spatial relations in the abstract domain on to elements and relations in a concrete visualization. Through such maps, the human ability to make spatial inferences can be transferred to abstract domains”.

and to offer a glimpse at the learning benefits of visualization:

“to comprehend information orders of magnitude more quickly than they could through reading raw numbers or text”.

Of course there are many other benefits of visualization in learning. John Medina, the author of the bestselling book, Brain Rules, explains it this way: “Vision trumps all other senses… We learn more, faster, and retain learning longer if we use image rich content”. According to Medina, this “phenomenon is so pervasive, it has been given its own name: the pictorial superiority effect, or PSE.

The quiet explosion of recent 3D visualization technologies in K12 schools has blossomed into a rich variety of learning experiences that magically usher learning into the “mind’s eye”. These new learning technologies – all targets of opportunity for the display industry – include:

  • 3D educational films, documentaries, and animations
  • 3D simulations and apps
  • Immersive 3D virtual environments
  • 3D augmented reality
  • 3D vision testing for children
  • 3D content libraries

Today’s 3D visualization tools are available on projectors, displays, autostereoscopic displays, walls, caves, domes, virtual reality headsets, wearable technologies and a plethora of mobile devices. What’s in your wallet?

Display Daily Comment

The possibilities for schools are endless. But all of this re-invites our original questions for display and other enabling technology companies who read this piece: Why are you here? Why does your product matter? Whom do you serve? Where are you headed? What’s your raison d’être? – Len Scrogan