Microsoft releases SandDance data visualization tool for chart geeks

Microsoft Research has released SandDance, a new Microsoft Garage project, which helps you visually explore data sets to find stories and extract insights. It uses a free Web and touch-based interface to help users vigorously navigate through complex data they upload into the tool.

While data science experts will find that SandDance is a powerful tool, its effortlessness of use can help people who aren’t experts in data science or programming the ability to examine information – and present it – in a way that is accessible to a wider audience.

Steven Drucker, a researcher focused on information visualization stated:

“We had this notion that a lot of visualization summarized data, and that summary is great, but sometimes you need the individual elements of your data set too. We don’t want to lose sight of the trees because of the forest, but we also want to see the forest and the overall shape of the data. With this, you’ll see information about individuals and how they’re relative to each other. Most tools show one thing or the other. With SandDance, you can look at data from many different angles.”

The company is offering two different versions of the SandDance project: one a Web app and it is also available for Project BI customers.

“Using the Microsoft Garage as the release platform gives us the freedom to run experiments with the more accessible standalone version, and as we learn what you like and what works, we can add the right parts to the Power BI visual,” says Drucker.

SandDance will be announced as part of Power BI at the Data Insights Summit on March 22.

Instead of static charts and graphs, SandDance adds some animated flair to when users dig deeper into their Power BI data. There are a number of visualization options including 3D scatterplot, maps, charts and histograms. You can also select and isolate items, facet them along attributes and distinguish between them with the help of colors.

You can try SandDance right now, and it currently works in most browsers that run WebGL including Internet Explorer 10, Edge, Chrome, Safari and Firefox (iOS devices are not supported). Also, note that SandDance will run better on computers that have a modern graphics card.

SandDance is releasing through the Garage, the official outlet for experimental projects from teams across Microsoft, to continue testing new and exciting data experiments.

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