Grok-It Concepts
(Explanation as a voiceover in a coming Flash movie)

Flash Animations
Problem Section (intro)   //   Applications (updated)
Sensors (EVA, VitalTouch, BioSuit, DrugBugs)


Often we've heard it said that we are in the 'information age.' The amount and diversity of information being produced in the many fields of human knowledge grows at a previously unimagined rate. Like the printing press, the computer has changed the way we create, use, and store information. Database and data management technologies have certainly become more powerful and efficient. Yet, even with these techniques, information gets buried and in some sense 'lost' in storage. While the information user may know of existing information he can't get at, as the amount grows he does not even know the new information being added! The best response all our information could produce is therefore not available to the crisis response expert. Why has it become more difficult, even unlikely, for a decision maker to get from raw data to meaningful perception, then decision? In the following multi-media presentation we hope to clearly and simply present the problem and the Grok-It solution for getting from data to perception.


Problem (first sequence in Flash presentation-voiceover)

In a very real sense, the information age has become the communications age. The volume and diversity of the information we've created requires that we create better ways to communicate all of it. Otherwise, it's as though we didn't usefully have it in the first place. Why have it? Its like having a huge bank account, but no way to get money out of it. It is now a question of communications technology, and of human-information interface technologies in particular. Grok-It science begins with the assumption that current interaction with vast and diverse information resources for urgent purposes is hindered by

1) A neglect of the multiple sensory systems of the human body &
2) Perceptually inferior preparations of information for those senses which are used.

Sensory Neglect
The visual sense has been given top priority in the area of human-information interaction. All our data is made available through the eyes, with few exceptions. There are at least two other senses which are completely cut out of the interaction with information-the ear and the skin which has seldom, if ever been exploited as a medium of information gathering. Of course, the blind have benefitted greatly from it. There is to say the least a serious bias towards the visual at the expense of access.

Perceptual Inadequacy
Even the way information has been prepared for the visual sense is often inferior, as it has been rendered as text, numeric characters, and crude graphics. In our explorations, the medical expert is always dealing either with printed textual material, or else with the unintelligible visual forms of data produced by medical instruments like the EEG, EKG, and such others. Text, numbers, symbols, squiggly lines, and graphs have perceptual qualities which are inadequate to the urgent requirements of crisis response experts (eg. doctors, emergency medical personnel, etc.). The information, as typcially represented, is just perceptually defficient, to the neglect of the extraordinary capacity of our brain to capture and process information from our senses. We are not saying that vision or text are bad ways of accessing information. Rather, we are making a conceptual point that while these work well for some needs, the critical nature of some information requirements is hindered by them. Namely, when great quantities and diversities of information must be accessed, represented in all their richness, and then used in a rapid manner. Grok-It science offers conceptual solutions for information demand by rethinking the sensory and perceptual possibilities for how to render maximally rich information to the human body.


How can we change the way information is presented? Again, we are looking to create both multi-sensory and perceptually enriched information to the user. We want to make visual, aural, and tactile renderings which are loaded with needed information for rapid use. Our goal is to conceptualize a system that brings together the different sensory renderings into one unified dynamic interface. Grok-It science handles this challenge by pulling together technological solutions which are being developed in different areas of human-computer interfacing. The ideas of data mining, knowledge discovery, and perceptualization of information are key to this work. Data mining and knowledge discovery are new and powerful ways of accessing quantities of data and doing unique searches through them. Perceptualization of information is concerned with how we take that data we have generated in our querry and put it into multisensory forms.

Data Mining & Knowledge Discovery
In a Grok-It system, data mining processing is part of the core functionality of the interface. In order to transform data into the different perceptionalizations available to the user, an extraordinary means of turning repositories of data into novel and powerful information is required. "Gold mining is a process for sifting through lots of ore to find valuable nuggets. Data mining is a process for discovering patterns and trends in large datasets to find useful decision making information There are many different definitions of data mining. Almost all of them involve using the today's increased computing power and advanced analytical techniques to discover useful relationships in large databases." "Data mining is a 'knowledge discovery process of extracting previously unknown, actionable information from very large databases'" [Aaron Zornes, The META Group] "Data mining is the process of discovering meaningful new correlations, patterns and trends by sifting through large amounts of data stored in repositories, using pattern recognition technologies as well as statistical and mathematical techiques" [Gartner Group] quotes from

Perceptualization of Information

Perceptualizing information is a simple idea. In their stored form, data and information reside in databases or on hard drives; they have not yet been perceptualized. That is, they have not yet been put into a form which is accessible to the different senses of the user. Typically, this form is visual and exists as text and numbers across a computer screen or on paper. These are the standard pereceptualizations of information we are used to. Grok-It science is about multi-sensory interaction with novel and rich perceptualizations of information. To repeat: information will be rendered for three senses rather than one. The eyes, ears, and skin will all become aveneus for gathering data. Perceptualization of information is an idea which assumes that under high intensity demand for much and different information, it is best to divide the different information up. After processing the different data through data mining techniques, the goal is to take some of that data and put it into a form which is highly accessible to the visual sense. Likewise, take some of the data and make it accessible to hearing; and so with the tactile, or haptic surfaces of the body. Large quantities of diverse data may be transformed into multi-sensory forms of information.Here we see the basic ideas of

1) geometry, color, texture, and dynamics becoming meaningful features of information which has been 'visualized'
2) tone, pitch, timbre, volume, duration, location becoming meaningful features of information which has been 'sonified', or converted into sound forms.
3) touch, felt position, motion, and force becoming meaningful features of information which has been converted into forms which come into contact with hands, fingers, arms, or skin and muscle sensations of the body known as tactile or haptic manifestations. Think of the braille used by the blind, and imagine an ellaboration of this idea for accessing information without sound or image but with physical impressions across body surfaces.

This is the Grok-It solution to the problem of getting information to multiple senses in richer forms for each of the senses. Towards what end? Of what kind of need for information is Grok-It science a solution?


It was a specific challenge that forced our thinking into the direction of Grok-It interface design. In emergency situations where people have been affected by natural catastrophe, war, or similar assaults, how do expert response personnel get effective and rapid access to the many kinds of information they need to respond adequately? What is the best way to make the response efficient, timely, and powerful? We believe it is a matter of having all the necessary information that could be made available. However, as important as the information is in itself, an inadequate presentation of the information is a hindrance to its value. Response personnel must not only have the most important information, but it must be available in a manner that opens up the most meaning possible, and that it do so rapidly. Decisions made with this benefit are very potent and help the greatest number of people and situations. Grok-It science is what we call an 'interventional informatic:' taking a Grok-It system and deploying it in a crisis response manner is intervening with information to alter an outcome. Applying Grok-It science to paticular need so as to optimize human outcomes is the goal of this work. Project Strong Angel was a kind of mock-up crisis response exercise that took place in the Hawaiin desert in Summer of 2000. Strong Angel is an international exercise which will encourage collaborative efforts between military forces, and private sector entities, with the goal of improving methods and matrices during disaster relief efforst. Our participation in Strong Angel was directed towards the substantial problems of interfacing experts with information assets-ones emerging from both the field and resources distributed on-line. These images from the Strong Angel project give a sense of the kinds of elements which are to be found in a crisis response situation, and the opportunities for deploying interface integrating systems outlined in this presentation.