Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Visual That

Yesterday I opened my business week magazine and saw this picture in an article talking about CES in Las Vegas this year. The picture compares the size and weight of Panasonic new garage-size 3D TV to something people are very familiar with, like Koby Brant's height, length of mini cooper, weight of a cow. So that users reading this article have rough idea how big the TV is.

Precision of measurements is not very important in this case, the familiarity and approximation of measurements are the key. And this is an idea that have sat in my mind for a month now. How desperately I want to realize that idea by building my own website! I actually already have a name for the website. It's called "visualthat.com", isn't it a cool name? Maybe at this moment I don't have the ability to do that now. At the very minimal, I can tape my thoughts here. :)

What I have been thinking is a website that allows users to input the metric they are interested in (for example, height, weight, volume, currency etc) and the amount of the metric in numbers. And the website spits out a visualization of the metric comparing against something average people are familiar with. For example, I am interested in 1 yard. The website spits out a picture of a height of SUV, and visualize how much a yard is comparing to that height. This visualization could be chop some part of the SUV (suppose SUV is taller than 1 yard), or a ruler next to the picture indicating the approximate position of 1 yard. Another example, I am interested in how much 1 dollar is worth in Chinese currency. Well, I input 1 dollar, it shows me a mac burg from McDonald’s dollar menu, and probably 3/4 of the same thing over a map of China or 2 apples. To make it more fun, users are allowed to choose baseline they’d like to compare to. And an app for mobile devices can be created too.

The closest thing I can find on the internet is Wolfram Alpha . However, I don’t quite like (1) no pictures, (2) too many query results crowded in one page. This Scale of Universe from Primax Studio is also cool, but it does not (1) allow user input (2) choose baseline.

Anyway, this is going to be a very fun project, making measurement conversion allowing user input query and visualizing query result. And it’s going to be a challenging one! Hmmm, maybe I should start learning some html and JavaScript.

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