The problem

The world has seen a rapid increase in the amount of data available on everything from our health to our education to our national security. While this huge bank of information holds enormous potential benefits, finding a way to present it in a digestible, usable format is a key challenge shared across a range of sectors. How do we make data more accessible?

The solution

UniSA researchers have designed a digital tool to help a range of end-users translate complex data into a visual story, saving hundreds of hours of analysis time.

The narrative visualisation tool, developed by Dr Andrew Cunningham, Dr James Walsh, and Prof Bruce Thomas, from UniSA’s Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE), has already allowed the Australian Federal Police to create snapshots of crime by distilling mountains of case notes and briefs into image-based stories. 

The software helps prosecutors, lawyers and juries get up to speed in the courtroom so they can more easily understand complex facts, saving hours of admin and time. The software identifies key events of a criminal case, selecting the most relevant data from case notes and presenting it in an easy-to-grasp snapshot, whilst still being able to dig into the details. 

“Basically, this tool is useful wherever you have huge complexity – in logistics, transport, healthcare, and finance, for example – and need to summarise the most important elements,” Dr Walsh says. 

“The beauty of it is that we can create specific models for each domain. For criminal cases we can focus on pulling out information that relates to charges. For loan applications we can identify a person’s financial history. Basically, we can rank the material to prioritise the information we care about and then present it in a visual form.” 

The narrative combines text with images, video, scans, and voiceovers to present a snapshot which filters out the most critical information. 

“It’s a marriage of computer science, statistics, graphs, artificial intelligence, artistic design and storytelling,” Dr Walsh says. “For digital systems we are collecting more data, whether that’s from notes, automated sensors, spreadsheets, video, audio and even x-rays.” 

IVE’s research has also been applied to a project with BAE Systems and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC). The project examined other narrative visualisation concepts to map the life cycles of machinery, tracking the operational and service histories of frigates. 

In collaboration with UniSA and IMCRC, BAE Systems Australia’s shipbuilding business, ASC Shipbuilding, developed narrative visualisation and big data processing to define and shape the manufacturing environment for the Hunter Class Frigate Program. 

Visualize complex data

Wendy Bourke is Senior Project Manager, Innovation, Research and Technology, BAE Systems’ Hunter Class Frigate Program, says collaboration with UniSA opened new avenues of research and development for the company.  

“Sometimes industry can be constrained in its thinking as a result of process and procedures which we are required to adhere to, especially in the defence sector. Collaborating with university researchers, like those at UniSA, enables industry teams to again think freely, as such constraints are not embedded in academic researchers,” Bourke says.  

“I think both IVE and BAE Systems have gained insights into each other’s workspace. The exposure that the IVE team has had to the shipyard and how that works has been invaluable to understanding the problems that exist in industry. I believe this has enabled a more practical approach to providing solutions and the building of tangible products. Seeing their solutions starting to take shape for potential further development to yield an end product, I believe is very rewarding."  

“From a business perspective there is significant interest in what is being developed, and to see solutions rapidly evolving into demonstrators that solve unique problems, has been met with enthusiasm.” 

The University of South Australia (UniSA) understands that sophisticated technological innovation, globalisation, and shifting power balances are rapidly changing the face of the defence and space industries. That’s why UniSA offers the Global Executive Master of Business Administration (Defence and Space), designed to meet the workforce development needs of these sectors. In partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (US) and Exeter University (UK), students undertake an 18-month program with in-country residentials across three countries: Australia, the UK, and the USA reflecting the AUKUS tri-lateral arrangement. Discover more.

Partners involved

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Project outcomes

Simple visual interface allows users to easily understand complex data

Applicable across a wide range of industries

Reduces time and increases accuracy of decision making

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