Friday, August 26, 2011

Tool - Flare: Data Visualization for the Web

Flare, written in ActionScript library, helps create eye-candy visualizations that run in the Adobe Flash Player. Not only it supports drawing basic charts and graphs, complex interactive graphics, the toolkit infact supports data management, visual encoding, animation, and interaction techniques to name a few. What I find as a exciting feature is, flare features a modular design that lets developers create customized visualization techniques without having to reinvent the wheel.

Flare is open-source software released under a BSD license. Flare's design was adapted from its predecessor prefuse, a visualization toolkit for Java. Flare is a creation of the UC Berkeley Visualization Lab.

Tools required for Flare visualization are the Flex SDK available from Adobe - Action Script Compiler and for interactive visualization flash also available from Adobe
There are several examples of popular commercial websites that use Flare API -

1. BBC News uses Flare to map top 100 sites on the Internet

2. Slate Magazine uses Flare extensively for their interactive data graphics

3. The Minnesota Employment ExplorerThe Minnesota Employment Explorer (built with Flare) lets people explore employment trends and share their insights.

Some of the examples of interactive visualization offered by flare are shown in this here

Among those, my favorites were the Layout - force visualization. These are dynamic and can be very useful in case, we have to show some kind of molecular forces of attraction or bonding between different status message on social websites. Also the flexible timelines are intuitive as we can stretch, curve, bend the timeline as needed- might be useful where one has to demonstrate a space-time curvature or history timeline with varying scales.